Making Emotional Sense of Language Death through the Literary Arts
Dorian (1994-1998) explained the importance of language ideologies and attitudes of the general public to language change and demise. The transformation of these attitudes which are ingrained in the public's psyche is crucial for the maintenance of lesser spoken languages. Crystal (2000) also insists on the crucial role of public opinion in the acceptance of language variety and suggests that works of art may raise public awareness about language maintenance through the emotions they can create. Three renown writers, Pinter, Atwood and Malouf have explored the significance of language death in works of art. Pinter's play "Mountain Language (1988)", Atwood's poem "Marsh languages (1995)" and Malouf's short story "The only speaker of its tongue" (1985), have adopted different angles to look at lanugage demise. Pinter explores its political aspects, whereas Malouf slips into the mind of the last speaker of a dying language. Alwood's poem, on its part, describes the last moments of the linguistic system itself. The analysis of their works seeks to detail how artistic representations of language death have the ability to touch the emotions of the readership. The tragic evocation of the end of a language as the beginning of silence, the potentially violent nature of languages' disappearance, the insignificance of the world resulting from language loss, as well as the sense of solitude and incommunicability created in the examined literary texts facilitate and emotional connection with the readership. The maintenance of languages in danger of extinction cannot be achieved without public education, as does the protection of endangered animal species. By creating empathy with language decline, literary texts will impact positively on public awareness about language ecology.
Keywords: Literary Arts, Language Death, Meaning and Representation, Language and Arts
Dr. Sylvie Gagnon
Programme Director, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Canterbury