Spoken Here by Mark Abley
Travels Among Threatened Languages

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Synopsis

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. Abley meets the crusaders as well as the uncaring, all of whom offer surprising insight into this centuries-old debate. Spoken Here is a singular travelogue, a compelling case for linguistic diversity, and a treasure trove for anyone who loves any language.
 

About Mark Abley

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Mark Abley, an award-winning journalist, writes for the Montreal Gazette, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. He speaks English, French, and a little Welsh. His previous book, Spoken Here, was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and Discover magazine. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005 for work on language change and the future.
 
Published April 4, 2005 by Mariner Books. 336 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Most dear to the author’s Welsh-descended heart is his chronicle of the grassroots revival of six Celtic languages, specifically Manx and Welsh, whose speakers displayed a bloody-minded tribalism despite the English decree that their languages were “doomed.” While militant practice of one’s nativ...

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The Guardian

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Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley 322pp, Heinemann, £14.99 This book touched me, perhaps because its author and I study essentially the same thing: variety.

Feb 07 2004 | Read Full Review of Spoken Here: Travels Among Th...

The Guardian

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Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley Heinemann £14.99, pp322 We are losing our languages.

Feb 08 2004 | Read Full Review of Spoken Here: Travels Among Th...

Publishers Weekly

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expansion of the major world languages, particularly English, is, according to Abley, likely to bring about the elimination of most of these languages by century's end.

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