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Spoken Here by Mark Abley

Spoken Here (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Mark Abley

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521819,425 (3.73)30
Title:Spoken Here
Authors:Mark Abley
Info:Random House (2004), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non-fiction, Canadian, 2012

Work details

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley (2003)



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Even better than his Prodigal Tongue, Mark Abley's explorations of diminishing (and the very occasional not-yet-diminishing) languages fascinated me from beginning (aboriginal Australian) to end (Welsh). The political implications of Mohawk and Iroquois, the literary ones of Proven��al and Occitan, the religious ones of Yiddish and Hebrew (and Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Proven��al and Judeo-Persian, of which I had heard of only the first), are endlessly intricate and packed with meaning and possibility.

Imagine the philosophical posers that cultures with several different forms of first-person plural (they and I but not you; two others and I and you; more than two others and I and not you, and so forth) could present to the Indo-European language speaker. Try to grasp the mindset of a someone whose speech relies on state of being as well as, or separate from, location and linear time. Mourn the knowledge that would be lost if the words for plants and their uses specific to pinpoint locations on the edges of maps were forgotten. Wonder how four different words for pre-dawn light can remain useful if their speakers sleep indoors.
1 vote ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Despite the author having said something incredibly dumb like "I'm not a linguist but I can still write about languages... you know, like you don't have to study ANATOMY to talk about the body" I'm continuing to read this book. He did lots of travel and does have some linguistic knowledge. But what a stupid thing to say. ( )
1 vote amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
Very interesting book. Mark Abley travels to several parts of the world where languages are nearing extinction, including the Isle of Man, and Indian Reserves in Quebec. I especially enjoyed his discussions of how different languages express different world views -- we are at risk of losing more than a few minority languages, we are really at risk of losing diverse perspectives.

Easy to read, thought-provoking and you will learn something. Perfect combination! ( )
1 vote LynnB | Jun 14, 2012 |
This was really quite a fascinating book. Mark Abley tours the world, seeking languages that are disappearing as their last native speakers pass away. It was surprising how many of these there are.

Some of the most interesting aspects of the book were the times when he was able to explain how another language could express concepts that we find troubling or awkward to express in English, or when the language embodied a different world view. ( )
1 vote TadAD | Feb 23, 2010 |
This was a very interesting book about language and culture. I especially liked the chapters about the Isle of Man and the Yuchi Indians. ( )
  krin5292 | Dec 7, 2008 |
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Hey now, you got me by the tongue
I feel like, there's nowhere I belong.
               —David Gray, Faster, Sooner, Now

The dark soft languages are being silenced:
Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue
falling one by one back into the moon.
              —Margaret Atwood, Marsh Languages

O felix peccatum Babel!
               —J.R.R. Tolkien, "English and Welsh"
This book is for Annie
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Patrick's Language

An old man watches a milky ocean roll in to the shore. High above the waterline, two children are skipping barefoot along an otherwise empty beach, its contours defined and guareded by a pair of mangrove swamps. A long, low island nudges the western horizon. This could be an afternoon scene on almost any tropical coast: the heat rising off the sand, a hawk scouring the sky. In fact, the surf is brushing a remote edge of northern Australia—remote, that is, except to the old man's people, the Mati Ke, who may have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618565833, Paperback)

In Spoken Here, Mark Abley takes us on a world tour from the Arctic Circle to Oklahoma to Australia in a fervent quest to document some of the world's most endangered languages. His mission is urgent: Of the six thousand languages spoken in the world today, only six hundred may survive into the next century. Abley visits the exotic and frequently remote locales that are home to fading languages and constructs engaging and entertaining portraits of some of the last living speakers of these tongues. Throughout this exhilarating travelogue, he points out that the same forces that put biological species at risk -- development, globalization, loss of habitat -- are also threatening human languages, and with them, something very basic about their speakers' cultures.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:36 -0400)

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"In Spoken Here, Mark Abley journeys around the world seeking out languages in peril - Manx, Mohawk, Boro, Yiddish, and many more. Along the way he reveals delicious linguistic oddities and shows us what is lost when one of the world's six thousand tongues dies - an irreplaceable worldview and a wealth of practical knowledge. He also examines the forces, from pop culture to creoles to global politics, that threaten to wipe out 90 percent of languages by this century's end." "Abley encounters one of the last two speakers of an Australian language whose tribal taboos forbid them to talk to each other. He spotlights those who believe that violence is the only way to save their tongue. He meets a Yiddish novelist who writes for an audience she knows doesn't exist. He pays tribute to such strange tongues as the Amazonian language last spoken by a parrot, the Caucasian language with no vowels, and the South Asian language whose innumerable verbs include gobray (to fall in a well unknowingly) and onsra (to love for the last time)." "Each of the languages Abley spotlights, from the familiar to the foreign, exemplifies the various threats that endanger languages worldwide. But many also prove their resilience, thanks to the efforts of their determined speakers and such unlikely tools as soap operas and pop music. From the crusaders to the uncaring, Abley draws surprising insight from this centuries-old debate."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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