In today’s world, over 7,000 languages are spoken by over seven billion people. However, about half of these languages are dying.
Professors David F. Mora Marín and Becky Butler presented their arguments on why it is important to preserve ancient languages around the world and how linguistics play into the everyday lives of UNC students Tuesday at Flyleaf Books. The lecture was a part of Carolina Public Humanities’ Humanities in Action series.
Mora Marín is a specialist in Mayan linguistics and focused his part of the presentation on the idea of linguistic endangerment. Essentially, languages all around the world are going extinct. Mora Marín said the United Nations General Assembly declared 2019 as the “International Year of Indigenous Languages” to counteract this phenomenon.
He explained that linguistics don't simply define the language one speaks, but also the ways in which people understand their surroundings. For example, a study he conducted showed that Yucatán speakers are more prone to identify objects based on their materials, while English speakers are more likely to identify objects by shape.
“When you think about 7,097 languages around the world, we are also thinking, perhaps, of that many different ways of imagining what the world is like,” Mora Marín said.