If you had to choose one particular article or subject from this book, which one would it be, and why?
I think the main point of this collection in the great variety of linguistic situations, linguists and projects it intends to cover.
For instance, you’ll learn about the extreme situation of some of the languages of the US west coast, in Oregon and California. Some of the people there have an amazing attachment to their « heritage » language, which they ask linguists to record when they’re the last ones to speak it. When it is no longer spoken, they ask linguists to « bring it back » to them, by teaching them whatever is known of the language thanks to documentation dating back to the last century!
In contrast the book includes chapters on the still-vivacious languages of South American groups, among which a nomadic group of the Colombian Amazon region, the Yuhup, or another one, in Ecuador, who has wished to handle itself the documentation of its own language, Tsafiki,
I trust readers will also be fascinated to learn about “whistled languages”, many of which weren’t even documented or known, and all of which, sadly, are now highly endangered, in Greece, Turkey or Mexico for instance.
And then there’s this surprising chapter about Franco-Provençal, a regional language that France hasn’t officially recognized yet, though it was recently recognized by the French Rhône Alpes region where our research lab is located.
The book covers Africa, Asia, America, etc. Yet surprisingly, all the authors here are Western linguists… Where are the African, Asian, or American Indian linguists?
Endangered languages usually mean very marginalized populations, aged speakers, and absence of younger speakers. In such circumstances, very few people happen to be literate, and besides, the level of education rarely exceeds the first years of primary school. Our work then is to train as many members of the community as possible, so they can take part in the documentation of the language by learning how to transcribe or translate the recordings. Become actual linguists is a whole other story…
That being said, the book is truly speaker-oriented; as a tribute, a way to show how those who work with the linguists are often « natural linguists » themselves. Among contributors is the case of this native speaker of a language of Senegal, who reports that by overhearing our discussions at the DDL lab in Lyon, he found out much to his grief that his own language was endangered, which he was later able to confirm when he returned in the field for his thesis.