KERALA

Preserve wisdom of dying languages: Ganesh Devy

Ganesh N. Devy, linguist, delivering the Ezhuthachan lecture at the second foundation day celebrations of Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University in Kozhikode on Friday.— Photo: S Ramesh Kurup

Ganesh N. Devy, linguist, delivering the Ezhuthachan lecture at the second foundation day celebrations of Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University in Kozhikode on Friday.— Photo: S Ramesh Kurup  

: Each living language has a responsibility to carefully identify, conserve, and enrich the endless wisdom and brilliance of a dying language around it, linguist and literary critic Ganesh N. Devy has said.

Delivering the Ezhuthachan memorial lecture as part of the second foundation day celebrations of the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University at the Tagore Centenary Hall here on Friday, Dr. Devy said humanity was going through an extraordinary phase in history with regard to the evolution of communication. “Hundreds of languages across the globe are dying and there are widespread fears about it,” he said.

Elaborating on the topic ‘Aphasia (death of language) and diversity: The future of language,’ the linguist said it was the use of language that made human beings a “unique species” on earth. Tracing the social origin of language back to half-a-million years, Dr. Devy said its use, however, underwent a series of dynamic changes in the following millenniums before they began to die, also of man-made reasons globally.

Maintaining that most of the languages that were forced to die were of marginalised people such as tribal communities, Dr. Devy said languages in recent times had been reduced from 21,000 to 6,000 across the world. “Of this, it is believed that not more than 2,000 will survive to the end of this century,” he said.

He hinted that a gradual “transition” in the use of language from its present form to a new way of “image processing” had begun. In the wake of such a “transition,” the living languages, he said have a “great responsibility.” They should identify and carefully conserve for humanity the profound wisdom of each dying language. “One should not forget that each word in a language is book, a dictionary or an encyclopaedia by itself,” he said.

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