Why “rescue” a language?

A number of members of my alma mater department are doing great things for language documentation and revitalization. I loved what my friend and colleague Keisha Josephs, who works with the Karifuna language, had to say on the topic of why this is important:

“Sometimes people ask me: ‘Why bother bringing back the Kalinago language? Why not just accept its loss?’ Because language is more than what we use to communicate, it’s a part of identity. Does anyone ask why we should restore the Sistine Chapel? After all, it’s just another painting and there are plenty of paintings in the world. But people realize that works of art like the Sistine Chapel are unique, and represent the great accomplishments of human beings. Languages, to me, are treasures like works of art. They contain the knowledge of humans passed down from thousands of years.”

“Hello, New New England”

This Chronicle blog post discusses an article in the latest issue of American Speech (the journal of the American Dialect Society) about the status of New England dialects. I can report that at least among the 25-50 set here in the far suburbs of Boston, R-lessness and other Boston/Mass dialect features are alive and well. (Witness: my conversation with a receptionist where she mistook my utterance of “Kyle” for one of “Carl”.)