Conor Clements13 February 2018
To many of us, the idea of languages tied to a country seems normal. People in England speak English, people in Japan speak Japanese, people in Croatia speak Croatian, and so on. Is this a hard and fast rule? Of course not, but to some extent it’s still considered the norm. But why does this perception exist when it’s not the case with the majority of languages?
Because of the cumulative effects of assimilation over many generations, Ainu’s uniqueness is in danger of being lost forever. There are only a handful of native speakers left—perhaps as few as fifteen—and all of them are elderly. While there is a much higher number of second-language speakers with varying degrees of fluency, without concerted efforts to protect it, Ainu’s chances of survival are, sadly, quite low.
As a field of study, linguistics is a relative newcomer compared to more established social sciences like anthropology and psychology—but you might expect that linguists would have at least agreed where to draw the line between dialect and language. Alas, as always, the reality is much more complex.
Sign language is something that few people even experience in their daily lives, let alone learn. Even as a linguistics student, I’ve found that my education has focused exclusively on speech, with casual references made here and there on the applicability of theory used for spoken languages to sign language; even then, it’s mostly an afterthought.
One of the first problems that you must solve when setting up an education system—though it’s probably not something that an Australian would ever think about—is what language it will use. Ideally, it should be one spoken widely by students, which is why English is a good fit for classrooms in Australia, Japanese is a good fit for classrooms in Japan, and so on.
Laura wakes up. She thinks, “Oh god, I’ve got that big presentation today!” She jumps out of bed to get dressed, but suddenly! Her legs are computers!!!!!!!!!! By the time she gets to work the meeting is over and she’s still in her pyjamas.
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