Book Review: Spoken Here
Posted by ILuvEire on January 18, 2009
This is a review for the book, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley.
I found it while browsing the Lingusitics section in my local book store (okay…more like linguistics shelf). It’s not a long read, but it’s quite an interesting book.
When reading this, don’t expect much about linguistics. The book gives a basic overview of the langauges phonology and morphology, then he goes straight into interviews with people trying to keep the language alive. It’s not his fault, he’s not a linguist, he’s a journalist.
He talks to one of the last three speakers of the Mati-Ke (alternatly Marri-ge and every other name that starts with an M and ends with E) language, and to speakers of the Murrinh-Patha language, which is used in the same area. He travels to the Isle of Mann to speak to members of the language revival (the Manx language having died ~30 years previously). In Oklahoma he speaks to the last surviving speakers of the Yuchi language. One of special interest to me was Provençal. The language was quite prominent, and then was quickly extinguished. The last surviving speakers have access to a rich amount of literature in Provençal and Occitian (a related dialect/language). Yiddish, a language the flourished, and was also resently sent into decline, is observed in a theatre. Back to the states for the polysynthetic giant, Mohawk. And he rounds it off with a healthy dose of Welsh, one of language revival’s biggest success stories.
The only reson this book didn’t recieve a 10/10 is because of the rest of the book. In between each of these interesting information filled chapters, is a chapter about language extinction and revival. They are usually quite deppressing, and do not fit in well with the rest of the books happiness. They center around language death and how we cant do anything to stop it. Then it procedes to talk about the evils of the English language. Over. And over.
That aside, I highly recommend you pick up this book. It’s available in the linguistics section at Barnes and Noble, and also available online from Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. You can also pick it up on from his website, right here.