A Phonetic Study of West African Languages (Second Edition) by Peter Ladefoged

By Peter Ladefoged

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Sample text

Versus nguwuru 'far place' versus baaj 'arrive, get in' eye' haj'track, follow' Long low vowels are written / aa/ by orthographic convention. While this introduces an inconsistency into the orthography, I feel it would be inappropriate to alter th/2 orthography without consulting the comnlunity.

2 What is an 'endangered language'? "[T]he coming century will see either the death or the doom of 90% of mankind's languages," according to Michael Krauss of the Alaska Native Language Center (Krauss 1992:7). The proportions are staggering. TheEtJ1noiogue (Grimes 1992) lists 6, 528 languages as "living," that is, spoken in the world in 1992. Krauss estimates that, by the year 2100, this number could shrink to perhaps 600. " But what exactly does this mean? The language and its speakers 31 A rough guideline, that almost e\rerybody seems to accept some version of, is that an endangered language is a language that within a few generations will have no speakers left.

Whether this is natural/healthy' adaptational change or whether it represents the kind of structural simplifications that are characteristic of language loss is difficult to determine. Not all situations of language contact result in language loss however. In the mountainous regions of Pakistan, villagers all speak three, four, or five languages. Most people speak Urdu, which is the unifying language, the country's official language (though it is the native language of only about 100;0 of the population), and they additionally speak various distinct local languages.

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