The Last Speaker David Harrison Analysis

Topics: Language, Linguistics, Translation, Languages, Sign language / Pages: 6 (1263 words) / Published: Aug 10th, 2015
“It is not inevitable, nor is it any kind of progress for these traditions to vanish. We have much to learn from them if we are willing to listen.” The Last Speakers page 242

K. David Harrison is a linguist, activist for language preservation and documentation, and author of The Last Speakers. Written in a journalistic style his most recent book, The Last Speakers, sheds light upon the global language extinction crisis. It is a mix between a scientific notebook and a travelog, featuring photos, interviews, and personal stories from the “last speakers” themselves. In The Last Speakers, Harrison expresses his views on the issue of language extinction, and why it is important to study these cultures while we still can. Written to enlighten
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When these restrictions were lifted, he planned and prepared for his excursion to Siberia and the surrounding area. When he went he studied three main groups the Tuvan, the Tofa, and the Monchack. These groups are unique because to this day they live as nomadic herders, following a seasonal migration pattern to find greener pastures. Most times families live in collapsible houses, surrounded by their animals which may include yaks, sheep, goats, reindeer, horses, camels, and dogs. They make all their necessities such as rope, wool, and saddles, and get food from the land and their livestock. The Tuvan even put dried yak manure patties on a stove, to use them for warmth. Though they lead a simple life their languages and culture runs deep. In Tuvan when trying to get a translation for the word ‘go,’ Harrison found that it is dependent upon which direction the river current is flowing, and one must be aware of their surroundings. Another example of Tuvan grammar rules is the suffix ‘-la’ that makes a word a verb, and changes it’s form depending on the word. They’ve even developed their own form of sign language. In western Mongolia only 1,200 speak Monchack. The Monchack people hold tight to their traditions, and practice ancient rituals regularly. Harrison describes how he was welcomed with the slaughter of a sheep. A ritual …show more content…
Harrison works closely with fellow linguist Greg Anderson. Together so far they’ve visited 6 of the 24 or more hotspots around the globe. The Language Hotspots map shows areas of endangered and under documented languages on every continent. The Last Speakers is all about their studies in these hotspots. They interview hundreds of people in hopes of recording and saving the cultural knowledge they posses. Evidently, central and eastern Siberia are high-level hotspots. Another language studied there was Chulym. What may have once been a thriving language with rich culture is now dying out. Whatever grand rituals or stories that may have once been practiced are nothing but scraps of the past. It is a highly endangered language because so few speak it, and those who do are elderly. Many elders that they interviewed spoke of how they were made to feel ashamed of their color and language. This is the downfall of many small languages, shifting towards the dominate languages. In the Northern Territory of Australia there is a group of Gugu-Yaway speakers who have vast knowledge of plants in the area, and how to be an expert hunter by using spears and boomerangs and learning animal sounds. Elder William Brady of the Night Owl clan said “If you can’t speak the language of the bush, you’d better not go into it!” These groups of indigenous people know their land, and

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