How does a language die? 02 April, 2013 – Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea – Written by John Brownie with Tim Scott It’s a common story around the world. Languages are in danger, languages are dying. Some say that it’s a good thing, and we should let languages die so that everyone can speak one of the world languages like English, French or Spanish. Others say that every time a language disappears, some unique cultural knowledge goes with it. Many people in PNG are concerned that their language is dying, and want to know what they can do about it. Sometimes, a language has been declining for a while and then the last, elderly fluent speakers die. But before a language dies, there's a pattern of decline in the use of the language that shows that it is on its way to death. When a language dies, the people don’t usually die, but they begin to speak a different language. The main question you need to ask is, What language are children learning first? If all the children are learning the local language first, that is a very good sign that the language is not dying. If children in the last twenty years or more have not been learning the language, it is well on the way to dying. What makes a strong language? There are three kinds of strong language. One is a language that is used by outsiders, like Enga in Enga Province, Kuman in Simbu, Gogodala in Western, or Misima in Milne Bay. Another is one that is used in education, so that all people in the area are learning to read and write their language, and use it daily both in speech and writing. The third type of strong language is where everyone in the community uses the language in speech for most situations. If the community is not using their language in everyday situations, or is not teaching it to their children, the language is well on its way to dying. Parents must resolve to talk to their children in their language. They need to use it with their spouse at home. Write a letter to a wantok in their language. Pray in their language. Celebrate the language their parents taught them! For more information on this release, contact ThePNGexperience, PO BOX 413, Ukarumpa, EHP 444, Papua New Guinea Phone: 011 + 675 + 537-3544 ext. 4431 or Email: thePNGexperience@gmail.com “Tok Save” is the PNG “Tok Pisin” term for announcement or “For your information”. The English spelling conforms to Commonwealth English spelling.
Published on Apr 2, 2013
Without care, languages can die, and with it, a piece of culture. What can be done to prevent languages and culture from dying in PNG?