- The Oxford Handbook of Endangered Languages
- Biographical Note
- Introduction: Endangered Languages
- The Status of the World’s Endangered Languages
- Assessing Degrees of Language Endangerment
- Language Contact and Language Endangerment
- Indigenous Language Rights—Miner’s Canary or Mariner’s Tern?
- The Goals of Language Documentation
- Documentation, Linguistic Typology, and Formal Grammar
- The Design and Implementation of Documentation Projects for Spoken Languages
- Endangered Sign Languages: An Introduction
- Design and Implementation of Collaborative Language Documentation Projects
- Tools and Technology for Language Documentation and Revitalization
- Corpus Compilation and Exploitation in Language Documentation Projects
- Writing Grammars of Endangered Languages
- Compiling Dictionaries of Endangered Languages
- Orthography Design and Implementation for Endangered Languages
- Language Archiving
- Tools from the Ethnography of Communication for Language Documentation
- Language Documentation in Diaspora Communities
- Ethics in Language Documentation and Revitalization
- Approaches to and Strategies for Language Revitalization
- Comparative Analysis in Language Revitalization Practices: Addressing the Challenge
- The Linguistics of Language Revitalization: Problems of Acquisition and Attrition
- New Media for Endangered Languages
- Language Recovery Paradigms
- Myaamiaataweenki: Revitalization of a Sleeping Language
- Language Revitalization in Kindergarten: A Case Study of Truku Seediq Language Immersion
- Māori: Revitalization of an Endangered Language
- Language Revitalization in Africa
- Planning Minority Language Maintenance: Challenges and Limitations
- Congruence Between Species and Language Diversity
- Sustaining Biocultural Diversity
- Traditional and Local Knowledge Systems as Language Legacies Critical for Conservation
- Climate Change and Its Consequences for Cultural and Language Endangerment
- Interdisciplinary Language Documentation
- Why Lexical Loss and Culture Death Endanger Science
- Funding the Documentation and Revitalization of Endangered Languages
- Teaching Linguists to Document Endangered Languages
- Training Language Activists to Support Endangered Languages
- Designing Mobile Applications for Endangered Languages
- Indigenous Language Use Impacts Wellness
Abstract and Keywords
Contemporary linguistics, preoccupied with syntax, has neglected the lexicon. Yet languages in general may diverge more fundamentally in respect to the lexicon than they do on the level of syntax. Such lexical divergences may result in real differences in the way distinct human groups think. When lexicosemantic divergence between two languages leads to a situation where a concept expressed in one language cannot be translated into another, we have a case of absolute untranslatability. Speakers of the two languages necessarily conceive the world in different ways. A new corpus of data collected from the Penan nomads of Borneo provides instances of absolute untranslatability between their language and English. The extinction of languages like Penan is a tragedy for science: not only are their lexicons the repositories of enormous amounts of cultural data, but their dissolution results in the loss of information that may shed light on the nature of the language faculty and human cognition in general.
Ian Mackenzie is a linguist, author, photographer, and film maker from Vancouver, Canada. He has conducted linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork with the Penan hunter gatherers of Borneo since 1993. He created a dictionary and grammar of Eastern Penan, and has investigated the lexical semantics of the language. He is co-author with Wade Davis of Nomads of the Dawn (1995); his work is featured in the 2008 documentary The Last Nomads. He collected, edited, and is translating into English a four-volume autobiography of one of these traditional nomads; the first volume has been published for Penan readers. He holds a BA from University of British Columbia (1978), an MA from Université de Montréal (1985), and is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a Fellow of the Explorers Club and recipient of their Lowell Thomas Award (2010).
Wade Davis is professor of anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Author of twenty books, including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, and winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, he is the recipient of eleven honorary degrees, as well as the 2009 Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the 2011 Explorers Medal, the 2012 David Fairchild Medal for botanical exploration, and the 2015 Centennial Medal of Harvard University. In 2016 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
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