Language Evolution, Extinction and Survival (LIN2102.01)

Thomas Leddy-Cecere

In this class, we will explore the life cycles of human languages: their genesis, their continual change, how they give rise to descendants and how they, in many cases, come to disappear. The 21st century represents a watershed moment in the history of the world’s language population, as expert estimates predict that anywhere from 40-80% of its 7,000+ languages may cease to be spoken within the next hundred years. What are the forces, global and local, precipitating such an extinction event? What precisely is understood by language extinction/death? Are there paths to adaptation, continuity and survival, and do these differ from those observed across other epochs of human history? In addressing these questions, we will consult the work of sociolinguists, historical and documentary linguists, and linguistic anthropologists, in addition to stances outlined by language activists and speakers of threatened languages themselves. Explicit comparison will also be drawn to the ecological/biological metaphors (evolution, speciation, extinction, endangerment, etc.) so often utilized in the study of language, with an eye to the critical evaluation of their strengths and shortcomings in this application.

Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 4
M 12:10pm - 2:00pm; W 12:10pm - 2:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as 2000, All courses, Areas of Study, Four Credit, Languages, Monday and/or Thursday Afternoons, Sociolinguistics, Thomas Leddy-Cecere, and tagged , , , .