K. David Harris, linguist and film subject, answers, “what is lost when a language dies?”
When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday. …. Each language is a unique expression of human creativity.
We would be outraged if Notre Dame Cathedral or the Great Pyramid of Giza were demolished to make way for modern buildings. We should be similarly appalled when languages — monuments to human genius far more ancient and complex than anything we have built with our hands — erode.
From spoonerisms to malapropisms, “Evolving English,” now at the British Library, recaptures some.