Death control


OLN Swamy in discusses death of languages. Speaking of Kannada, he points out that it too is seen as endangered. It is a serious matter as it involves the survival of richness of cultures in the world, not only the matter of survival of a language.
But can the life and death of languages be controlled? On the face of it, yes. We dont have to look far beyond the history of colonisation to learn about how death can be brought upon a language and its culture. But, the same history also tells us about the remarkable resilience of languages and cultures when we notice those that overcame it.
We tend to approach language and culture in an anthropocentric manner, attributing to it human frailties. Death to a language is not an event; it is a process in which not individuals but multitudes partake of decision making. People dont let a language die, centripetal and homogenising processes of hegemonic languages notwithstanding.
Languages go through radical revisions such that one may become another, or many, but all these happen as willed by its users. When a population of the size of some nations speak a language, as with Kannada, any talk of its death is, well, a kind of angst.
In this context one must also remember the many languages in one language. I think one of the processes leading to the death of a language that OLN mentions points to this. He says when users begin to use another language, this happens. But those users would also be importing the linguistic behaviours of their language into the new one they use. This leads to a situation where Kannada for eg may be at once a multiple language. It already is a multiple language is my hunch.
Another issue is, if a society wills to migrate from one to another language, what of our anxious concern for preservation of languages? Furhter, is the process of death of languages coupled with birth of new ones? Or new birth of prevailing ones? Umm, got to think about it.

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