Claude Hagège, "Endangered Languages: Birth, Death and Resurrection” - MIT CBBS

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HAGEGE: According to a widespread assumption, the topic on which I'm going to deliver a talk today does not belong in linguistics proper.

As a matter of fact, giving this talk here, in the MIT environment, is not quite irrelevant. Why? Because this is the place from which, four or five years ago, a new trend in linguistics originated, the MIT as you know.

As you may know, among the tenants of this new paradigm was the idea that language is a phenomenon whose study is part of the cognitive sciences and ultimately of biology.

I am not among those who work within this theoretical framework, which appeared in linguistics in the middle of the 20th century. Therefore, I do not think that languages can fruitfully be studied, only in cognitive thought of being studied also in-- let alone in biological terms, short of being studied also in sociological terms.

To me, language is also, to a great extent, is social phenomenon. We also need social linguistics.

Thus, I am going to treat here language death as a social-linguistic phenomenon. This talk takes most of its ideas from this book. Where did I put it? [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

Whose English translation will appear, as far I am informed, in contrary to what she announced-- she was not supposed to know it-- will appear in Stanford University Press within, hopefully, one year or probably, I am afraid, more.

Under the title-- I don't know. [INAUDIBLE] title I suggested halting language death. But this was frowned upon as quite un-English. Well, so anyway, it will appear in an English version within more or less than one year so that, right now, I am drawing the main of my inspirations and ideas from the French version, which I wrote two years ago.

I would also like to mention the name of my friend and colleague, Ken Hale, whose untimely death two weeks ago, three weeks ago--


HAGEGE: One week ago is a terrible loss for us professional linguists. Language death happens to be-- turns out to be also one of the many topics which is studied very brightly. So he will be mourned and this great loss for us. All the more since, as you know, this was the place where he taught.

OK, let me announce the plan I will try to follow during much more than 40 minutes.


First, the state of the art, the situation of languages, as being on the brink of extinction for most of them; then, the causes of this phenomenon; then, the results of these causes; then, the attempts at a sudden revival attempt to revive some languages according to processes in which I will try to give you some indications; and then, some exceptions, which can be studied in the framework of a so-called Resurrection, which has been announced in the title.

So state of the art, what is the situation today under our eyes? Oh, very simple. [INAUDIBLE] presented 25 languages die every year. And the result of this cool calculation is that in 2100, considering that we have-- this is a strict assessment-- 5,000 languages, without taking into account their dialects. I mean, this is-- it's probably more.

Considering this number of 5,000 languages, since 25 of them die every year, in 2100, we will have 2,500 languages. Which for me, a language lover since childhood, is a tragedy.

Of course, some of you, probably, and some of my colleagues, even, although they are professional linguists like me and many people in the mass don't care. This does not prevent them from sleeping very-- quite fully.

It does, as far as I am concerned, and I will explain why. We could consider the situation normal, but I do not.

You probably know that in the 19th century, there used to be what we can call a vitalist tradition, V-I-T-A-L-I-S-T, which consisted of studying languages in biological terms. And since the notion of death, just like the notion of life, are biological notions applied to living species. They were born, they live, and then they disappear. Not quite, not completely, but they disappear as entities, which are succeeded by new entities, which they produced or generated.

So this formulation, language death, language life, the life of language, the title of many books in linguistics in this century and also in the 19th century, can be frowned upon as metaphoric. But they are not quite unscientific. They correspond to a certain part of the truth.

So speaking of language death, though metaphoric to a large extent, is not quite to be ruled out. And what does it mean? What is the lifespan of a language, of human language? It begins when it appears, then it leaves for some time according to the circumstances and the environment in which it appears. And then, it generally disappears.

However, these properties which allow us to study languages in more or less metaphorical biological terms are not, all of them, particular features of languages. There is one which does not-- which has never been mentioned as far as living species are concerned and which must be mentioned as far as language are concerned, and this is the possibility not to die completely. Languages can be resurrected. And this is what I will try, if she leaves me time for that, to refer to at the end of this talk.

Well, OK. When languages appear, their life, the lifespan, the way they develop, has many features, which, as I said, are common with other species, since I accept this metaphorical formulation, this wording. Like other species, living species, of zoology, of biology, of botanics, and of various sub-branches, etymology, and so on, the study of insects, of other living species. And to that extent, languages can be characterized as species which live and which change.

When do we think languages should not be confused with language as a faculty? Language as a faculty, as you may know, is a defining property of our species. Human species is characterized, if not defined, practically, exclusively, by possessing, in its genetic code, what Chomsky himself here refers to, using the French terms, as [FRENCH], language faculty.

This [FRENCH], which was used by the French philosopher, Descartes, whom Chomsky knew as well, and to whom he devoted one whole book, is what defines us. This means that in minus two millions 2 thousand of hundred years, which is reputed to be the probable date when our species appears in a particular niche in East Africa, as you may know. Since this time, minus-- before the Christian era, we have language. It defines us because it appears in our genetic codes.

But languages, English, which has the same word, does not permit us to distinct distinguish, as French does, which says [FRENCH]. So [FRENCH], are not the same term. English is forced to use either the singular or the plural in order to refer to these two notions.

And language, as a defining property of human species, is something which does not necessarily result in languages at once. So although this is quite hypothetical, I suppose, I think, languages in the plural appeared much later than the species itself.

But as soon as the species appears, the only thing which characterizes it as distinct from other-- we are a species. We are an animal species, of course. But the only thing which distinguishes us from other animal species is the inscription of language in our genetic code.

And the last apes, which are still apes, and the first hominids, which are really humans, are distinguished not by their capacity or their skull, not by measures of their morphological being, but exclusively by the possession or not possession of the fact that they possess or do not possess this faculty, language, in their code.

Well, later, much later, I mean, close to our period, probably end of the Neolithic era, minus 10-12,000 before Christ, we probably had-- this is a hypothesis, but it is probably propped by many arguments, which I cannot mention here, for lack of time, for lack of time.


It was the period in which many languages appeared. And the reason is not far to seek. Why do so many languages appear in the beginning of the Neolithic? Just because this is the period when human societies become societies.

In fact, by becoming sedentaries, they were nomadizing so far. And approximately at that period, they begin to build cities. And building cities means to become peasants, to have an activity, which is agriculture, and also to seize, to stop, to a large extent, without completely stopping being what we call hunter-gatherer. A hunter-gatherer is a characteristic, still represented in Australia in some parts of New Guinea and other parts of the world, which characterizes very old societies, the first ones.

I do not-- I am reluctant-- I am loath to call them primitive. Of course, as so many people do, because this would be a value judgment against which I am completely-- but I would just say, that the societies which are, which were, which used to be, and which, for some of them, still existing are yet still hunter-gatherers are of course nomads, nomadizing societies. Because they just live from what they hunt and what they gather.

Gathering-- a hunter-gatherer implies fishing. Or when you hunt, you don't fish. But fishing is just put together with hunting as a means of subsistence. And these societies were the most ancient we know.

As soon as they become sedentary and stop to some extent and for some of them, completely, being nomads, stop nomadizing, then they build cities. We can't say without contradiction, without provocation, that building cities is the same as becoming peasants. Because when you build cities, you build them in the lands.

So the French humorist, Alfonso Allais, said, [FRENCH]. But of course, this is not. This was a provocation. But in fact, where can we build cities if not in the land? I mean, within the landscape. And then when we build cities. The ones which are cited by the Bible, like Jericho, reputed to be, probably wrongly, one of the most ancient one, it remotes to-- it goes back to a much remote antiquity, but not the most remote one. I mean, probably 9,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era.

Anyway, whatever the first known city, Jericho or any other one, building these cities implies necessarily that people-- these societies were becoming agricultures. And therefore, they seized nomadizing.

And due to the complications of their relationships, they multiplied the number of their languages. So we are quite sure, very sure, that the number of languages grew considerably when human societies became sedentary societies.

This implying that relationships are more and more complex when societies-- once they are established, settled in a place, have new kinds of relationships which force them to build new kinds of conception of the worlds and to study it and to express it with a much more refined communication means, which is language.

Well, this concerns the Neolithic. But then after this birth and development, at a period which is very close to ours, a Renaissance or beginning of the 16th century, there was a sharp decrease in the number of languages. And this is essentially due to the discovery of new worlds, which is a warlike, a hawkish discovery.

People do not discover a new world just by observing its characteristics. They murder other people. And this is one of the first causes of language death. They lead them to the brink of extinction. I mean both ethnically and linguistically.

The ones which escape Western violence lose the languages. And the ones who do not lose their life and in the same time, the languages and their cultures.

So we know that the number of languages is submitted to a sharp decrease in the beginning of the 15th century, which is, by the way, the beginning of what are called the most beautiful discoveries of the world by, most of the time, Westerners.

Well, this implies that in America, three parts of America, in Australia later, in New Zealand, in Russia also, languages after having thrived, after having been extremely numerous, become decreasing at very rapid speeds. And in Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya we also see many, many languages disappearing for causes which I'm going to study now.

So I have just to begin with-- presented a situation where I call a state of the art. And now, let me propose some causes.

The first cause, which is quite easy to understand, is, as I said, physical extinction. Of course, when there is slaughter, when you kill people, they disappear and their languages disappear at the same time. So this is the history of the great part of the world.

We can say that the discovery of North, Central, and South America is the discovery of continents in which Europeans are not mingling most of the time, with an exception. The Spaniards mingled much more regionally than the Anglo-Saxon Puritans with the Indians. Of course, they needed women.

So not mingling in general with the native populations, but pushing them further away from their settlements or killing them more by the spread of old world diseases than in wards, led their language and themselves to extinction. This is one of the chief causes.

Now we also have social and professional causes. I mean, when the language is presented as providing new jobs or as being the vector of new values, social values, even cultural values, which correspond to enrichment and the possibility to affirm oneself more readily, then people switch from their ancestral language, from their vernacular language, to this new language, which is imputed to bring a new kind of living judged preferable. So this is what happens in many places and especially in America and in Africa.

So the second cause of language extinction after physical extinction itself is social and professional changes under a contact. In Africa, for example, this example will illustrate the way languages are led to the brink of extinction, not necessarily by Westerners but also by Africans themselves in their relationship with other Africans.

When-- if I am a nomad, I am a-- I have nothing to live off, and I just hunt and gather. And I marry a woman whose father has cattle. Since I buy her-- women are bought, of course. In these societies, women are bought.

And since her father, in order to negotiate this commercial act with me, gives me some heads of cattle, which he has, if she belongs to a family in which people are pastors, then I change my way of life. And from this normadizing life, which I had formerly, to the new life which is brought to me by my marriage, I become a new kind of man. That means that I give up my former nomadizing life.

Then, the question which appears as the main one is, what language will be transmitted to the children? Of course, the woman, whatever kind of feelings she has for her husband, will not learn his language. What will she do? She will transmit the language of her father, the one of her tribe, which is hers, and then the children will be brought up in the language of the mother.

And this is one of the main social and professional causes of the disappearing of languages. So marriage is a very dangerous thing for languages.


It depends. It depends what kind of marriage. But in that particular case, it's, unfortunately, totally counter-indicated.

Another cause is the models provided by urban life. Therefore, the previous one which I was referring to just some minutes ago, I will illustrate probably by the example of Kwegu, who are a nomadizing population-- who were, used to be formerly, but they have changed their way of life in Kenya.

And most of them, by these kind of marriages to which I was referring, become pastors. And in some kinds, they are cultivators. And then their language dies, because they won't transmit it. And this is the case of these Kwegu marrying Maasai women in Kenya and south of Tanzania.

As far as the other cause is concerned to which-- models which are provided by a new urban life, a case which I could mention is the one of the Nubians of high Egypt. These people belong to an ethni which has a Nilo-Saharan language, Nubian, well studied by linguists. Myself, I did field work on this language some years ago.

And they are Muslims. And since they are Muslims, they are very regularly submitted to the religious emissions of broadcasting's of Cairo in Arabic. So they become bilinguals. They speak their Nubian, vernacular language, and they also speak Arabic, which is the vector of Islam, and which they catch when they listen or watch their broadcasting and television programs in Arabic.

So this they do in urban centers. Because in their countries, it is difficult to catch these media. But when they go to Cairo or to other important cities of Egypt and Sudan, then they progressively abandon, give up their own language. And this is the way by which life in urban centers is threatening-- is a very big threat for the maintaining of languages. So this is the way most of them die.

Another one, which I would like to refer to, although it does not belong as the previous ones to those which can be studied scientifically. I mean using scientific concepts, such as professional life, change of lifestyle, marriage, and so on, is a reason which I am, to some extent, hesitant to mention. But I don't see any other reason for the extinction of many languages in the modern world that what I would call-- I would refer to as snobbishry.

In many cases, the adoption of English, precisely, by populations which do not need it. Neither in their social life nor in their professional life nor for commercial or economic reasons. Is not explainable short of referring to reasons of snobbishry.

This is the case in many European countries in which English is promoted not by the pressure of British or American authorities, not by people who are themselves bearers, I would say, or speakers of English, but by the very populations of European countries, Western countries in Europe who consider, which is by no means my case of course, that speaking English is something which is prestigious. I cannot share this ridiculous attitude, of course, but it is the one we see in many, many Western milieu and especially in the bourgeoisie in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and so on.

And the reason why I mention-- at the end of this sub-chapter on causes of language extinction-- the reason why I mention it at the end is that snobbishry, as I said, cannot be proposed as a scientific cause. But it is.

At any rate, it is the only one I see when I don't-- when I can't mention other causes to explain switching from one language to another one which one does not really need.

As far as commerce and profit, the only care of these kind of people is concerned, selling or buying in English, as they think they are forced to, does not, by any means, improve their business nor leads them to a better kind of invention or creativity and so on. But nevertheless, they think that switching to English is something which is to be praised.

Well, now let me present the results of such a situation. I will give some examples to illustrate the set of causes and to show what these causes have brought about as a result. Let me tell you these examples in various parts of the world.

And let me begin with an example, in the United States of Norwegian, which you might-- some of you might know, probably some of you who have Norwegian background have heard of that.

After an initial migration of 1,925 persons, very few, Norwegians emigrated to the United States in such numbers that they were able to create a Norwegian America. And this Norwegian America flourished from 1850 to 1940.

During most of this period, the chief medium of internal communication, oral and written, was the Norwegian language, which served as an in-group identity marker. Widely spoken in several parts of, as you know, of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, South and North Dakota, and some other states.

Research on informant usage shows that-- I have myself done some fieldwork in some of these states which I have just mentioned-- shows that in the more conservative and isolated rural settlements the language persisted well into the second, that is, the first American generation as late as the 1940s, which means very recently. One could still find speakers who claimed to be using Norwegian regularly in the United States at least one half of their time.

However, among these bilinguals, Norwegian became typically a family or neighborhood language, gradually abandoned as contacts with American institutions and individuals grew.

Several informants reported that they had first learned English at a school after speaking only Norwegian in their home. The discipline could be traumatic. An informant told me that at the district school-- I am mentioning what he said-- we were not allowed to speak Norwegian. Another puts it that, when we were little, we could not talk Yankee, and the teacher would keep us after school if we didn't-- if we did.

The school was, of course, not alone in promoting English. Several mentioned contacts with the Norwegian neighbors, especially Irish and Germans, though there was an occasional German who learned Norwegian from surroundings, are also to be mentioned among the causes.

After World War II, Norwegian almost disappeared as it was as a result of all the factors which I have mentioned. The scenario here outlined does not seem to be very different from that which applies to most immigrants languages in the United States, and also in Canada, to some extent in other parts of the world which are now, for the majority, English speaking. There are special profiles, however. For example, for Pennsylvania German where immigration was early and massive.

In a comparison, very small modern groups, numbers, and religious boundaries may lead to greater retentiveness, as with a million Germans, or less, as in the case of American Danes. English is not only the proto-American language of choice, promoted by official and private usage, it is also the lingua Franca of all the earlier immigrants who are sooner or later driven to communicate with each other. And this is the fate of Norwegian in this country.

Let me mention another example which has to do with Castilianized or Hispanized South and Central America. In these countries, as you know, we had a very great number of local languages, especially in Mexico, Nahuatl in the north and the Mayan languages in the South, as well as some other ones, Chinantec, and so on, which can still be studied by people doing field work, like myself, but which are more or less, a great number of them, on the brink of extinction today, unfortunately.

These languages, these people lost their languages and their cultures to the Spanish culture, to the Spanish language. And this was, to a large extent, due to evangelization to Christianization and also to the fact that just the same colonial habit of which we see so many examples all over the world, people when they colonize or when they arrived in these countries, took the best lands, took the best places to cultivate and pushed away farther and farther the original inhabitants, who of course either died because they had nothing to eat or because they did not develop and tie elements to defend themselves against the diseases brought by Europeans.

So what happens to their body, happened to their languages. Another case is the formation of new languages, which is not the same thing as the one I am referring to now. I mean, either language is imposed upon, foisted on people who are deprived, by the same token, of their own language. And in that case, it is a substitution. Or another way, another process by which we can say that we have language death, language splits into other languages. And by splitting, it becomes other languages which do not necessarily replace it but are its outgrowth or its products.

This is exactly what I am describing in my own, very poor terms, what has happened to French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, and Portuguese, the so-called new Latin or Roman languages, which are as you know, the results of the splitting of Latin. Latin split into these five, in fact, much more, but these five main so-called Latin languages. In that case, will we say that Latin is dead? This I will-- how long is left?

AUDIENCE: 10 minutes.

HAGEGE: Well, I'm going to mention now, in the chapter which is devoted to resurrection. I'm going to talk about that now. Well, has Latin disappeared? No, to the extent that Latin has given way and has been the source from which other languages have developed. Yes, it has disappeared to the extent that Spanish is not Latin, French isn't either. In spite of that, I'd like to call your attention to the fact that the reason for me-- I have also delved into books which confirm this position-- the reason why America was called Latin, why would America be Latin?

Of course, we are so used to such a designation that we do not wonder why. But why did the Spaniards, when they invaded it, the conquistadors, why did they call it Latin? The reason is that they consider themselves bearers of Latin. In other words, in spite of the fact that Castilian, the purest termination of Spanish, was no more, was no longer, since centuries and centuries Latin, they still believed-- they were still convinced that what they spoke was Latin. It had been transformed to some extent, but Latin.

And this is the way, the reason why Hispanized America was called Latin America, although it was not Latin by any means. But it is the way the Spaniards viewed it. Well, now in other cases, languages try to defend themselves against the assaults of languages of invaders and to resist and to try to avoid dying. Well, now let me-- as one of the last parts of this talk-- let me, as I announced, say what I think about the attempts to revive some languages.

There are some attempts to revive languages and some of them are successful. Some are less. Some are not at all. What are these attempts? Many people, mostly missionaries and linguists, do not satisfy themselves with the samples taken that language is being extinct and progressively dying. They try to revive them and in some cases, against the will of the population themselves.

I mean, to the extent that, as I said in the beginning of this talk, populations, for various causes which I referred to, consider that they do not have to translate their vernacular languages to their descendants or their children. To that extent, when a linguist or a missionary, a missionary who translate the Bible in order to evangelize the population in their own vernacular, a traditional language, and the linguist who is, as myself, a language lover and who mourns the death of a language as a catastrophe, those two kinds of man who do not coincide, as you can imagine, except that some missionaries have had linguistic training of late because formerly they did not.

They translated without knowing the language. I don't know how they manage, but anyway. So these two kind of persons exert a certain pressure on the populations who are tempted to abandon the languages. And as a result, they try to find arguments. Here is the plan of action, which is proposed to help protect against the loss of indigenous languages in many Indian Reservations in America and also in Australia. Promoting ethnic self-awareness, confronting apathy among young people, identifying social contacts in which traditional language use can be fostered, fighting against the perception that multilingualism is cumbersome and without great benefits.

This is what I myself very often do. As a result, there are some cases in which languages escape or at least provisory escape death. Let me mention some examples. One of them concerns Indian reserves in the United States. At the beginning of the 16th century in the lands that are now the United States, I mean the 48 contiguous states plus Alaska and Hawaii, there must have been many hundreds of distinct languages. Did you know that? Imagine that. This is not what the teachers tell you.

Well, fewer than 200 still remain. And the future of these is decidedly insecure, even where the remoteness of the location-- in the case of the Inuit, Eskimos, of northern Alaska-- or the large size of the speech community in the case of whom-- Navajos of Arizona-- should normally or seem to protect the community from language loss. So people launch programs of revival in order to help these languages not die and to make populations aware of the danger which threatens these languages and threatens them to extinction.

And this has the result that some of these languages have been revived, although to some extent artificially, but not without success. I can mention the case of Mohawk. You have heard of Mohawk? Which is still spoken as well as other Iroquoian family because it belongs to the Iroquoian family, which was formerly spoken around the Great Lakes and the Chicago and Detroit region.

Thanks for the Mohawk language immersion program, the children learned many of the positive facets of Mohawk culture, beyond the sounds and phrases of the Mohawk language. Emphasis is also placed on traditional spirituality and respect for teachers and elders, which makes part of their culture. The children can identify with Mohawk role models, along with completing all that is required academically. The children have a feeling of pride of knowing their own language.

The feeling of security of knowing their heritage and culture. And the confidence of a strong identity. It has taken 25 years to arrive at where people are now. It has been a struggle, but tremendously satisfying. And my informants say we still have to contend with getting the community more involved. So we are far from being able to sit back on our laurels. So this is a kind of fighting, almost a warlike, campaign against death.

Now some of them have succeeded in making the political authorities conscious. Before I mention this fact, let me also mention another case of successful fighting against language death. This applies to Peach Spring in Arizona. You may have heard of that. This is the place where the Hualapai language used to be spoken. And at the beginning of the 20th century, it was very, very severely threatened. So people reacted and now almost all of the teaching staff have of the Peach Springs program have attended the American Indian language Development Institute, which was co-founded by the program's director.

And as a result of access to highly trained consultants and researchers, this Peach Springs bilingual, bicultural program has produced a great many highly accurate, culturally relevant, and attractive books and materials in the Hualapai language, one of the most threatened among these languages which belong to the [INAUDIBLE] family. The program's publications include books on Hualapai ethnobotany, cattle ranching, hunting, traditional foods, and traditional Hualapai history and stories.

The children in the school have also been involved in creative writing programs, creating contemporary short stories, life experience writing and poetry in their vernacular Hualapai language. Now people have gone even farther. In 1979, an American Indian Language Development Institute, AILDI, was founded. And in June 1988, the International Conference of this-- off the Native American Language Issues Institute held a conference in Tempe, Arizona.

This conference, in the course of the conference, all Indian and non-Indian participants, including Hawaiian representatives, worked together to formulate resolutions concerning Native American languages and cultures. In September, a copy of these resolutions was sent to the select committee of Indian Affairs. And later, in 1990, October, a bill was passed by the Senate and the House. And it was signed by President Bush, the other President Bush. The legislation is known as public law 101 or Native American Language Act.

What does it contain? Let me just mention some articles. It says, it is the policy of the United States to first preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages. Second, encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium of instruction in order to encourage and support Native American language survival, educational opportunity, increase students' success, performance, and so on.

The bill, unfortunately, in the end in a last and little visible chapter, also states that nothing in this title shall be construed as precluding the use of federal funds to teach English to Native Americans. This is enough to-- for me not to have to comment upon what this implies. Now let me, in order to say my last words, hopefully, say the reason why the situation, as a matter of fact, is not so dramatic as it might appear.

This is because the comparison which I referred to as, to a large extent, metaphorical and consequently not quite scientific, between languages and living species has its limits to the extent that, one, as I announced, property of living species. I mean, the fact that they die is not shared by languages. Languages, in fact, do not die. What does that mean? Very simple thing.

In order to understand what it implies, you have to know that this is a professional language distinction, to some extent. It's technical, but I think everybody-- are some of you linguists, major in linguistics? None of you? Some of you? So you must know that we distinguish since the great Swiss-French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, of whom you may have heard, we distinguish between parole and langue, language as a system and speech as the use of this system. Lang, or language, as an abstract notion means any instrument of communication which possesses a phonetic system-- because you need sounds in order to make, to fabricate words, a morphology, which is a study of the external form of words, because you need words made of sounds in order to be the vectors of semantic contents, then syntax because you need an environment in order to build sentences in the framework of which these words will be put.

So it is the job of syntax to study this. And finally, you need semantics, which is the study of the content of these words, which are made of sounds which are-- which these sounds constituting together the morphemes, and these morphemes together according to a certain word order, constituting sentences. So this is the system of language. You can study this in any language of the world. And another parameter, another direction of language is speech, what the French call parole.

What does it mean? It means the way you put all that into use, the way you utilize these performance possibilities in order to communicate. And this is the only things which, in fact, dies. But language is a system, phonetic, morphologic, syntactic, and semantic, does not die. Why does it not die? For a simple reason, why should it die? When we say that a language is dead, we mean that parole is dead. It means that it is out of usage. People do not use it any longer.

But provided we have kept a description of this language, of course, in the opposite case it is completely dead and without any hope, hopelessly. However, when we have kept descriptions written, as is often the case, either by missionaries or by grammarians, what used to be grammarians formerly, and what is to be today linguists, professional linguists like myself. When we have descriptions, then provided we can explore them. Provided we can tap them and see what they describe the language, which is called dead, which is assumed to have disappeared.

We can revive this language because we know on what basis to revive this. And this is what has been done in at least one very special case which I cannot not mention to end my talk. And this is the case of Hebrew. I cannot avoid mentioning it because it is, although reconstituted revived in a very special and probably difficult to reproduce, in very special circumstances, it has been revived, as a matter of fact. And this, of course, cannot not be cited as a model. What does this consist of?

You probably know that when Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish way of calling him. He was Yeshua and Nazareth was the city in which he lived. He was born in Bethlehem, but Bethlehem which means the house of bread. Beth is house and Lehem is the bread. He was born in the house of bread. But he spent most of his life in Nazareth.

And the Jewish way of calling him-- of course we do not recognize Jesus Christ. Christ means anointed. This is Christ Catholic, it does not belong to our culture. So I call it the Jewish way, Jesus of Nazareth, which was his name for his contemporaries. When he appeared, Hebrew was already a dead language and had been such for 500 years, 600 years. Why? Because in minus 594, the Jews were exiled in-- you know where-- in Babylon. Why? Because Nebuchadnezzar, whose name [INAUDIBLE] in a very well-known Verdi opera, Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar in a Syrian language, had fought against the Judea and defeated the Jews and the Jews [? Eretz, ?] the aristocracy, the king himself, and all the ones who ruled, and high [INAUDIBLE]. All these people were exiled and they were forced to go to Babylon. And of course, then, six centuries before the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth, they spoke Hebrew. But then, being exalted in Babylon, they progressively adopted the language, which was very widespread then in what we call Middle East today.

And this language, you know what it was? It was Aramean, not Armenian, Aramean, which is not yet dead, probably the oldest still remaining, still living language in the world, which is still spoken today, of course in a new form, in modern form, in the heights of some Lebanese mountains. And this Aramean language became-- although originally it did not belong to the Jews, it became a very Jewish language, in a way, because it was adopted by Jewish Eretz.

After the exile, when they came back to Jerusalem, they did not speak Hebrew anymore. What did they speak, Aramean. So Jesus of Nazareth spoke Aramean like all his contemporaries. And he very probably-- we are pretty sure-- that the way, the language in which he answered the accusations when he was sued was Aramean. Of course, he-- the rabbis asked him whether he knew the prayers, he did. And he probably said the prayers in Hebrew because Hebrew was and still is, in Jewish communities today, the language of liturgia, the language which is used in the synagogue and which is a religious language.

But as soon as the birth of Christ, let us call him the Christian way, as soon as the birth of Christ, Hebrew was already dead. And it was so since six centuries before. So in 1948, the state of Israel was created by a vote in the United Nations, which unfortunately, as soon as it was published, brought about the dramatic departure of all the representatives of Arabic countries. They all stood up and they left the hall in which this election had taken place as a kind of symbolic rejection at the very beginning of the creation of Israel.

This of course, you know the results still today under our eyes of this situation. However, when the state-- in such a difficult context-- was created by an international resolution, then the Hebrew language had already began to be revived. How? Because there was a man-- of course, it's not the work of a single man. You have heard probably of Ben Yehuda. Ben Yehuda was a Jewish Russian who, at the end of the 19th century, all of a sudden became aware of the fact that it was not enough-- most of these people were Zionists, not in the very derogative sense of today, unfortunately.

Zionist then meant an ideal of liberation. To be Zionist at the end of 19th century, as Ben Yehuda was, implied to be inhabited by a desire to free the Jewish people from slavery and from anti-Semitism and all its negative aspect of its history. So they were Zionists in this meaning, to which in order to free themselves from their binds. And then he, all of a sudden, became aware that in order to be able to go in Palestine, the Jews had to speak a language which was-- which should be common to all of them.

And then many Jews-- this was far, very long before the creation of Israel, it was in the beginning of the 20th century. And of the 19th and beginning of the 20th. Many Jews made what we call in Hebrew aliyah. They went to Palestine. Many of them came from Russia because as you know, Czarist Russia had many, many programs and the Jews were obliged to flee from Russia in order to avoid murder or slaughter. And then they went to Palestine, which was then a Turkish province administered and ruled by Constantinople, by the Turks.

Then in 1948, when the state of Israel was created, Hebrew was already a spoken language thanks to the efforts of Ben Yehuda and other ones who spent almost their whole life looking for words of the Bible, modernizing the language. Of course, the Bible does not contain words to say atomic bomb or airplane or terrorism and so on, notions which belong to our context, cultural context. But they made up these words. They invented. They coined new words.

And this neurological work, which was extremely important, took years and years, during which a new language, not quite new, but a modernization of Hebrew finally was possible. And this-- which is called Israeli Hebrew-- was in fact a revival of Hebrew. Why? Because the syntax, the morphology, of course, the vocabulary as I said, is renewed. But the core of the language, syntax morphology, and also phonology, to the extent that we knew how they pronounced three millennia ago, were the same as those of a biblical Hebrew.

So BI, Biblical Hebrew, and IH-- BH, Biblical Hebrew, and IH, Israeli Hebrew, are more or less the same language. Of course with differences which can be explained easily when you think of the period of time which separates them. So this language was revived. When I say revived, I mean that not only was Hebrew a dead language as soon as the beginning of the Christian era, as I said, due to the Babylon exile, but also Hebrew had never been used except in quite an exclusively religious context.

It was the language of Talmudists, of rabbis, and their scientific correspondence, of learned people, but not the language in which we say to a girl, I love you, or to your father, please give me a fork or a spoon when you are eating. So it was the language which was used exclusively in very solemn and very religious circumstances, never in everyday life. This is the reason why I said it was dead, because the language which was used extensively between learned people and in written form but not in other form is a dead language.

However, I mentioned the example to terminate this talk as a proof that when the language has been described, when we have many, many texts, the main of them being the Bible itself, then in spite of its having appeared, in spite of its having never been used during [INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE], it is not quite dead because it can be revived since we have the testimonies. We have the elements. Of course, this is one thing which is requested.

Another one is a certain will, a collective will, a very strong will shared by many people to revive a language, of which we have at our disposal the materials. This will, as far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, has never been illustrated, excluding among the Jews. But I think this is a model to be exploited, to be utilized as things to be imitated by other communities. The inhabitants of Cornwall in England, in the south of England, have tried along this model to revive Cornish. Cornish was dead at the end of the 17th century.

And the Corn-- how to say Cornwalls?

AUDIENCE: Cornish.

HAGEGE: Cornish, who of course speak English and have done so for centuries and centuries said, we are not Jews. In fact, they're not. It's true. But why wouldn't we try to do the same thing as the Jews did. And so they have succeeded against all expectations, a very, very queer, an odd success. They have succeeded at dazzling speed to reviving their language along the model of Hebrew. We have some other cases which are Creoles, such as the one used in the east of Timor and also the one Nagamese used in Nagaland which is a Himalayan states at the extreme Northeast of India.

We have some other examples. But the only one we can mention and which is a sure one is Hebrew, revived Hebrew. And this illustrates, once more, as I said, the fact that when parole I mean, the use in everyday speech is the only parameter which has appeared. The language itself has not because it is described, then, if I dare say so, it's suffices to have a collective will to revive the language. Of course, this collective will does not always exist. And the destiny, the fate of the Jewish people is not a fate which is very common, as you may know.

So this is the last thing I wanted to mention in order to show-- no, my last, last thing is that-- other than Hebrew-- we can mention facts which relieve us from this despair, from the dispiriting-- from this situation in which we see so many languages dying. We have also some languages which appear from nothing, from scratch. And these languages are Creoles. This is well known. I am, myself, a Creolist. Creolistics, I would like to recall, Creolistics is one of the most vivid and most active disciplines within linguistics.

I am a Creolist myself. Why? Because we see in West Indies, in New Hebrides, in other parts of the world, we know languages that are extremely young, we can assign them two or three centuries. And we know when they were born, when they appeared. And these Creoles are languages which have been created of late, two or three centuries ago, for the oldest of them, by populations which were deprived of other languages due to slavery and to a very sad history, which you may know.

So the birth of Creoles, of course, does not compensate for the death of some of the languages. But it is a fact to be mentioned as a sign of hope that when many language die, some languages also appear. And this process might go on during centuries and centuries, I believe. Thank you very much, for your attention.



HAGEGE: Yes, but this is precisely why I say that the metaphorical comparison of languages with living species finds its limitations in this very argument. Species, when they are dead, are dead, definitely, which is not the case of languages. This is exactly what I said. You cannot revive a-- if you are an entomologist, you know that a special species of insects has disappeared from the earth for economical, ecological reasons that you can study, then no one will be able to revive it, which is not the case of languages, provided you have situations like the ones I referred to.

And your other question?

AUDIENCE: About Creole languages. You think of them as being young--

HAGEGE: Yes, they are.

AUDIENCE: Local creations. [INAUDIBLE]. By which measure? What measure--

HAGEGE: Because you know where they were born.


HAGEGE: Would you like some examples?


HAGEGE: You know the situation. Well?

AUDIENCE: Haitian Creole, as an example. [INAUDIBLE]

HAGEGE: You know, I have myself-- well, Haitian, you say? Well, I know well-- I know better, although it's more of the same because they can communicate without difficulty. I know better the ones which belong to French territories still today, which are the one of Guadalupe, Martinique, and Guyana. We know really well, when I speak of Creole appearing at a certain date, it is because we can date their appearance. And why?

This is related to the history of slavery, you know. African communities were taken away from their tribes where they lived by merchants, who were Spanish, French, mainly British, but also from other countries, Portuguese. They were bought from local chiefs. And then as soon as they embarked in these boat which led them to the colonies, the tribes were mixed up and the languages were being disappearing. Then this is a well-known story. I apologize for recalling it, but you know it is well known.

Then they are obliged to create new means of communication in order to communicate. And what they create was a kind of new language in which they took some things from the language of the masters, French, English, Spanish, as the case may be, and some other elements from their own vernacular languages. And this is why Creolistics has become such an important part of linguistic because we have great controversies. We have what we call the substratists and the anti-substratists.

I am a substratists, I mean. I am among the those. I am an African, is myself, so I have studied many, many African languages. And I recognize, I identify in Creole as many African features, which cannot be explained by French, English, or Spanish. And the anti-Creolists, they retain other features which are the same as the ones in European languages. And they say, no. You cannot be a substratists. We are anti-substratists.

So the controversy consists of saying, what are the traits, the features which are due to the African origin of slaves? And what are the ones which are assignable to the language of their masters, which are European languages.

AUDIENCE: How is that different form the history of France where you have--

HAGEGE: I didn't say the difference. I just say it is more recent.

AUDIENCE: So then why would Creole be a new species?

HAGEGE: No, no, no. I don't say that. I understand what you imply. I'm not saying that Creoles are something quite apart and not to be compared with other kinds of language. They are human languages like any other. I just say that they are, by far, younger than the one you know. Why? Because the origin of Latin and Greek is extremely remote and we don't have enough documents.

The origin of Creoles is very recent because we know when these slavery circumstances began. We know most of the African languages still in use, of course, which were the ones that the tribes to which these slaves belonged. And then the only thing I say is not that they are different, by any means, but they are younger because we know where and when they appeared. This is what I say.

Most Creolists will have the same language because we-- the reason among-- yes, just a minute. Among the reason we mentioned for giving to Creolistics such an important place within our studies is that not only this controversy between substratists and anti-substratists is in fact a very important theoretical questioning linguistics because it, in fact, refers to what language is and how does a language appear.

So Creoles provide us arguments in one or other direction. The other reason is, as I said, that we know when they appeared and then what we cannot do for Latin, Hebrew, Arabic and other languages, of which old documents have disappeared, we can do for Creoles because we have documents. Missionaries who evangelized the slaves spoke African languages with them, described them. And they saw. They were a witness of the birth of these languages.

They saw them appearing progressively and we have descriptions, great number. This is why Creolistics, to me, and to many other linguists, is such an important domain in linguistics. Yes?

AUDIENCE: What's your comment about the multiplication of languages of different [INAUDIBLE] that can be seen, for instance, over the internet. Every site, every [INAUDIBLE] has got its own language that nobody else can understand or use. There is no oral tradition for that, but every community has got it's own way of speak and communicate. So what's your comment about that?


AUDIENCE: What's your opinion about that.

HAGEGE: The internet?

AUDIENCE: Yeah, or different [INAUDIBLE].

HAGEGE: I see internet as a big chance for the diversity for multilingualism. Because in the beginning internet appeared wrongly. We thought appeared as one more way of promoting English. But progressively, internet was-- people became aware of the possibility which was provided by internet to promote their own languages.

And now what I see, myself almost every day, is that many, many sites are occupied by languages which we would not have expected to appear in an internet. So internet, for me, right now, is one of the best ways to preserve language from disappearing.


HAGEGE: It was not your question?

AUDIENCE: Yeah, my question is that many new languages are appearing.

HAGEGE: New? What do you mean by new? Which ones?

AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] that communicate with [INAUDIBLE] developed its own code. And with the speed of the internet, this process is really fast. So maybe you observe new languages getting born every day on the internet.

HAGEGE: You mean new human languages or made up languages?

AUDIENCE: Made up by users.

HAGEGE: Yeah, but excuse me, excuse me, I am a professional linguist. I would not call these way of communications, languages. A language, for me, is what you know. It has a history. It has a grammar. It is not exclusively in written form on the screen or your internet of your computer. Its language we've spoken. So the codes, I would call them codes, which appear and which are very numerous. They invade, in a way, internet, do not disturb me. They are not languages.

They are codes, or means of communicating, which of course probably are very useful to many people who use them. But I would not study them within my work as a linguist. Yes?

AUDIENCE: I have a question. At the beginning of the talk, am I correct in understand that you said that languages, plural, are associated with the beginning of settled communities [INAUDIBLE]?

HAGEGE: Associated with what?

AUDIENCE: Of settled communities and the construction of cities. Did I hear that correctly?

HAGEGE: Well I say-- yes, you are correct.

AUDIENCE: Can you repeat the question please?

HAGEGE: He's quite correct, what he said. He caught what I meant. Yes.

AUDIENCE: I didn't hear it. There was a question.

HAGEGE: It was a comment.

AUDIENCE: If I was to describe how do you reconcile this with information that came later in your talk concerning the arrival of Europeans in North America who found hundred of languages, hundreds of communities spoke different languages, did not understand each other at all.

HAGEGE: To some extent, they did.

AUDIENCE: Many of these communities were hunters and gatherers. We have the same kind of situation in the Amazon where we have hunting and gathering societies presumably. And communities that live within a kilometer of each other and they do not understand each other's language. So I wonder where this argument comes from and why it is going to be still here, this kind of argument being wielded after 2,000 years hearing it, for instance, in Greek writing, the notion that those who spoke [INAUDIBLE] who lived in the cities, and those who didn't were the [INAUDIBLE] who barked, in a sense.

HAGEGE: They don't bark.

AUDIENCE: At the people in the cities. So I'm wondering about the status of this argument.

HAGEGE: Well, there is a piece of information which is lacking and which I would like to provide you. In fact, these people had what we call the vehicular languages in the Amazon, in the Great Plains among the Algonquins, Iroquoians and so on. There were many vehicular languages. I mean, languages whose origin was taken from one of the tribes and which imposed themselves on all of the tribes and they were used as communication languages.

This is what the whites found when they arrived. In all these contexts, we had-- they had been described by some missionaries. And we have some elements of information on them, in all these communities, which where, it is true, split up into many, many tribes. They communicate with each other through the use of these vehicular languages.

AUDIENCE: So this has nothing to do with the construction of cities.

HAGEGE: But this is much later.

AUDIENCE: And specialization.

HAGEGE: But this is much later. That was a kind of anachronism. The construction of the cities goes back to a remote antiquity which I would assign to 9,000 or 10,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era, where while the period you are referring to is the arrival of the whites in America, which is the 16th century. Between the two, we have 10,006 centuries. So it is not the same period. So an enormous lack of time between the two.

AUDIENCE: But then again [INAUDIBLE] contemporary societies, quote unquote, "primitive," as examples of where we come from. This is still common in sciences. So that's why I'm asking about the status of this argument because it sounds like an argument that has been wielded for so long.

HAGEGE: After?

AUDIENCE: The argument that essentially, the notion of the diversification of languages is something that comes from the appearance of settled society.

HAGEGE: Yes. Do you agree with it?

AUDIENCE: No, not at all.

HAGEGE: What do you propose?

AUDIENCE: I think it's a fiction.

HAGEGE: What do you propose?

AUDIENCE: Well, I think that the emergence of languages has to do with a new [INAUDIBLE] which is not exclusive of settled societies. That's what my--

HAGEGE: Well, no, no. What I say--


HAGEGE: What I say is that we state something which can be observed, that the increased number of languages corresponds to the increased number of social relationships is something which we know, which has been described. So of course, starting with this point, which is recognized, agreed upon by most scholars, what I say is to some extent, hypothetical. It's true but I would not deny many other linguists also have this view, claim that sedentary life multiplied, increased, as a result, increase the number of languages.

Because languages are a way by which human societies react to the complexity of life in order to communicate. So it doesn't mean that nomads had simple languages. They had fewer. But in fact, the languages of Australia, which have been conserved, and of Iroquois and Algonquin tribes in America, going back to a very old period of time, are very complicated. So what I say is not that when you have hunter-gatherer societies becoming sedentary, they have more complex languages, they have many more languages, I say, which are not necessarily more complex.

But they multiply the number because themselves multiply the settlements and the circumstances in which they live. This is what I say. To some extent, I repeat, it's hypothetical. So you justified to put it into question. But it is an opinion which is shared by many linguists, and not quite demonstrable, I recognize. Yes?

AUDIENCE: So how is that theory [INAUDIBLE] with the fact that the linguistically most richest areas of the world are areas where we have a lot of small, isolated tribes that have trouble reaching--

HAGEGE: What areas?

AUDIENCE: The Australian Aborigines--

HAGEGE: New Guinea.

AUDIENCE: Sub-Saharan Africa, and New Guinea.


AUDIENCE: Whereas in the more industrial areas, where the communication is more enhanced and you have the need to talk and relate, and communicate with much more people, the number of languages is of course--

HAGEGE: Is much smaller.


HAGEGE: What's your question?

AUDIENCE: Well, how does that reconcile with the view that more cities and more settlements-- that the emergence of cities and settlements--

HAGEGE: Oh, it's very easy to reconcile. I would say for ecological reasons because as you may know, the part of the world in which we have many, many tribes picking many different languages, diverging languages, which do not allow-- despite the existence of vehicular languages-- an easy communication, all of these parts of the world, New Guinea, northern territories of Australia, and so on, are very mountainous places in which people-- the Caucasus also-- in which people are separated by relief accidents, which are very high.

So the way socio-linguistics tries to explain, its proposal, of course, which can be improved, the way social linguists try to explain this situation, as being non-contradictory, is that this is related to the geographical configurations of these countries. And we know-- I have been myself to New Guinea. We have a central chain, which is extremely inaccessible and in which it turns out that it is the very one in which we have the most, probably the most important number of languages in the world in New Guinea.

And the other one is Caucuses for the same reasons. So these people, of course, are sedentary. They are in cities. They are-- they live more or less in societies, which do not numerize any longer and have not done it for centuries and centuries. But they are split up in many, many languages because the communication is made difficult by-- as opposed to that we know, we have the opposite example. We know that islands which have no mountains, which are quite flat like Samoa, like New Caledonia, like Tonga, have few languages, very few. And since these people, even when there was a great distance of marine territory, these people were navigators and were always related to do commerce between them.

These are places in which we have very few languages. There is one Tongan language. There is one Fijian, Fiji, and so on. As opposed to Caucuses, New Guinea, and other mountainous part of the world, which are a proliferation of languages. This, for me, is precisely a social linguistics itself. We explain language differentiation and multiplication by ecological conditions. It is a way we try to explain it. Yes?

AUDIENCE: I would like to ask about the relationship between the language loss and cultural loss. And I think if we think of language as a repertoire of cultural notions and values, and also a focus of culture in itself, in its aesthetic use of one's own language, it's self conscious and within culture, that's why we feel that the loss of language is tragic because it represents the loss of culture.

However, it seems to me there is a case to be made that language is sort of flexible over culture, that they don't coincide. They're not homologous. There are cases of obliteration, the American Indian case, where language and culture loss are sort of coincidental. You get obliteration of culture followed by language loss. But there are also many cases-- and I think some of the evidence for this is linguistic areas or cultural areas where you get cultural forms that include lexical fields, grammatical forms, and even aesthetic forms like poetic genre that spread across language boundaries.

Southeast Asia is of great cultural convergent center, for example, where all the languages like Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and so on, all have common features, suggesting that somehow these features that we associate with particular cultures are spreading across language lines. The Hebrew case you mentioned, is another interesting case where Hebrew was replaced by Aramaic and then replaced by Hebrew again, which suggests that something survive through this.

And I'm wondering if indeed we have-- and you might use English as an example, in which the various Englishes of the world seem to, for instance, Singaporean, which is a kind of Creole English, I guess. Seems to preserve within it many of the things that-- many of the notions, the semantic notions, the cultural notions that survive out of Malay, Chinese, and the other components that went into Singapore [INAUDIBLE].

So is it the case that you have, sort of, various kinds of language death? That you have the tragic kind of death, which eliminates culture with it. But you have other kinds where we might not feel that it's quite so tragic. In fact, we might not want to call it death. That what we feel is so valuable somehow survives in the new language.

HAGEGE: Well, there are many things mixed up together in what you say. First of all, I will-- by the way, if I may ask, will you be here tomorrow? Tomorrow I will give a talk in which I will mention Englishes. And it will be due to this very subject, to what extent English and other languages. I will talk about that in this-- I am very interested in this subject.

However, in what you say, when you started speaking, I wondered whether you were going to say that if languages appear, culture does not disappear. But you switch it to another subject. And this is the beginning of your question. And I quite agree that language death, when it is the loss of a language by population, does not imply necessarily cultural death. I thought you were going to mention gastronomy, dancing, poetry.

There are many cultural forms which belong in culture but we do not coincide with language. And in this country, we know, that the only ones who are able to cook things which we can taste are people coming from old countries in which one knew how to cook food. And in that case, I must say, that even in those cases in which people lose their languages to English, they do not lose other parts of their cultures, including gastronomy, which you know, French people are very interested in.

But you then switch it to another aspect which is also very interesting, which has, excuse me, nothing to do with what you started with, which is borrowing between languages, transmitting by borrowing. This is quite true. I quite agree. You mentioned southeast Asian languages, Thai, Khmer, Burmese, Chinese are languages whose bearers, whose speakers were always in relationship during centuries and centuries.

And of course, we know Vietnamese is it mixing up of Thai and Chinese. It is a Creole as Thai with many Chinese borrowing. I myself, I taught Chinese very long. And I lived in China during years and years. And of course, during this time, I was a so-called senior Tibetanist, or Tibet or Burma [INAUDIBLE]. And I studied this aspect of the things.

And what I saw, I can say, is that then, as you yourself say, these languages constituted and still go on, considering today a kind of set between the parts of which were saturated and where borrowed or given back, and so on. As far as Hebrew is concerned, which is a third part of your small talk, I would say, speaking Hebrew as the Jews did, up to or down to the Babylon exile, then switching to Aramean, then reviving Hebrew in the first half of the 20th century is a special case of language death and language resurrection.

But if the core of your argument is that there are various types of language death, I quite agree. It's true. And if it is-- it was not clear in my talk, it is because my talk was bad because it is exactly what I wanted to say. I quite agree that we have various versions of language death. This is quite true. And thank you very much.

AUDIENCE: One last question?

HAGEGE: Another question?

AUDIENCE: I wonder [INAUDIBLE] European, do you think that European integration will be good or bad for minority languages in Europe. Some people think--

HAGEGE: European expression?

AUDIENCE: European integration. You know, with the EU.

HAGEGE: In what meaning, integration?

AUDIENCE: Well, perhaps the clinical integration, you know, perhaps as the nation states become less important relative to Brussels, it will be less important to speak Spanish as opposed to Catalan or English as opposed to Welsh?

HAGEGE: What's your question?

AUDIENCE: Well, do you think that we'll see a boost-- or we'll see good prospects for survival and growth of minority languages in Europe? Or do you think that they're on the way out and everyone will be speaking a few central languages?

HAGEGE: You know, I am a language lover. And a minority languages I love as much as any other languages. So Catalan, Basque, what's the name of this language in the Northwest of Spain.


HAGEGE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] So therefore, these languages, of course, I am for their defense. And I don't think their fate is so dim. It might be a brilliant future which is in front of them. Why? Because as you may know, the ones who promote these languages have understood that what the central government refused, Brussels and unified Europe can accept. And this is reason why most of the defenders and promoters of these regional languages, they are called regional languages, address themselves to Brussels when they don't obtain a fulfillment of their requests from Paris, Madrid, or Rome.

So I think that the future of regional language in Europe is by no means threatened as much, probably, as the one of the great languages themselves. This might sound contradictory. But I'm afraid it might turn out to be true. So I'm not afraid for-- as far as these languages are concerned, not as much as for French, Spanish, and German or Italian.

AUDIENCE: That segues right into Dolores' talk. I just want to remind you that Dolores' talk is [INAUDIBLE] Normal Language Real or Imagined Threat? And it's in Building 2, room 105.