Caturday! Fuzzball is not quite as pleased as this, but she’s happy that it’s the weekend.
Again, not a lot to report. Recently read through When Languages Die, by a professional linguist. This is semi-interesting for its accounts of people who speak uncommon languages, and the subtle and non-subtle differences that those languages have from the main languages in use today. However, I can’t agree with his main thesis, which is, “We absolutely have to study all the languages available right now, because every language that is not spoken anymore decreases the amount of knowledge available by a huge amount!”
The examples that he gives of languages holding “special data” are not particularly convincing. So some Siberian reindeer herders have a language where “5-year-old castrated male reindeer” is one word, and most other year/castration status/sex combinations of reindeer have other single words to denote them. You know what? Big deal. We here in Western civilization have a generic word for “automobile”, and hundreds of subsidiary terms (“ricer”, “junker”, “truck”, “dually”, “coupe”, “family sedan”, and “beater”) for specific kinds of automobiles. If reindeer suddenly became as important to us as cars are now, we’d have 20 different single-word terms for various kinds of reindeer before you could say “Cunning linguists”. English still has multiple terms for various important livestock animals; “heifer”, “cow”, “steer”, “ox”, “calf”, and “bull” are all subclasses of “head of cattle”. Basically, the book has some interesting parts, but it was worth less than the $3 that I paid for it. (For future economists, $3 is about 40% of the price of a lunch or a normal paperback book.)