The Instigator
Westpaw
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
belle
Con (against)
Winning
11 Points

Preserving Endangered Languages is More Important Than Spreading Major Language

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/5/2010 Category: Arts
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,662 times Debate No: 11102
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (3)

 

Westpaw

Pro

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read my very first debate topic on Debate.org.

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Definition of an endangered language;
http://en.wikipedia.org...

I believe that preserving languages of the world is a worthy task, that would both preserve culture and heritage of people all across the earth.

Some points to be considered;

The debate with Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters has been raging for decades; unfortunately, the Chinese government has taken the side of Simplified Chinese, enacting a fine if one were to use Traditional characters in place of Simplified Characters. Though the Chinese language is certainly not endangered, it gives one insight of what could happen if a powerful government were to enforce a specific writing system.
Source = http://en.wikipedia.org...

Code talkers have been used by the United States government to ensure secure communication of messages without risk of the enemy deciphering the message.
Navajo, Choktaw, Cherekee, and Comanche code talkers have been used in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam to ensure safe transport of messages without risk of being understood by the enemy. Endangered languages can play a similar role in the future.
Source = http://en.wikipedia.org...

Language is a unique system that often has deep relations to the people who speak it. Preserving these languages can preserve historical heritage.

I look forward for someone to accept my challenge.
belle

Con

I thank my opponent for posting such an interesting topic. It is actually something I have considered before, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the subject.

Before addressing my opponent's specific points I would like to offer a definition of the word language, as I think it will be illuminating.

Language:
any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like used or conceived as a means of communicating thought, emotion, etc.

http://dictionary.reference.com...

Though there are many options listed, I chose this one because I think it most accurately encapsulates the purpose of languages: communication between individuals. This communication lends itself handily to almost every human endeavor. Without the efficient sharing of information, through either speech or the written word, the modern world would grind to a halt.

Now, Westpaw argues first that in China the government is pushing the citizens to adapt simplified Chinese characters rather than traditional ones through the use of fines, and that this is undesirable. While true, the tyranny of the Chinese government over its people is not a model for most modern language death, and thus is not relevant to the issue at hand. Generally people simply find it more prudent to adapt the language of the wider culture around them, as it allows expanded opportunities for communication and greater ease in daily living.{1} There is nothing of force involved in this process.

Next, my opponent brings up the Native American code talkers in WW2, who were instrumental in preserving the secrecy of military communications. I have two counters to this claim:

1. a dead language needn't be entirely forgotten, and can still be used for such a purpose. As an example, take Latin. While it is indeed considered "dead" in the technical sense, as it has no native speakers, many high school and college students study the language extensively. It is still known. Thus I argue that language death does not necessarily imply a complete loss.

2. Encryption is no longer the complicated problem it once was thanks to computers. Complicated algorithms that were difficult to implement with the technology of the 1940s are incredibly simple given modern processing power. Indeed, the field of military encryption is alive and well.{2}

Finally, my opponent claims that:

"Language is a unique system that often has deep relations to the people who speak it. Preserving these languages can preserve historical heritage"

without providing any real reason as to why preserving cultural heritage is desirable.

The argument that languages have deep relations to those who speak them is irrelevant, since languages only die when all their native speakers disappear. If it is importance to such people that matters, this statement has no bearing on the issue of preserving languages.

Because language is about communication, preserving those that no longer serve that purpose except in extremely limited settings seems like a waste of effort and time, and my opponent has yet to offer any compelling reasons why people should do so.

As for spreading a major language, having a universal tongue in which people could communicate internationally would be immensely beneficial. The range of information that would be available to individuals directly would increase dramatically, as would the frequency of communication between different cultural groups, since such acts would no longer need to be adjudicated by a translator. Additionally, it is a fair bet that misunderstandings between people of formerly different native tongues would not need to worry about their meaning being lost in translation.

Also do note that I am not advocating "linguistic imperialism" or anything of the kind. I negate the resolution because I believe both preserving language diversity and spreading a major language are equally unimportant. Language is constantly adapting and changing to suit the purposes of those who use it. To try to preserve it in a freeze frame or prescribe certain changes is to interfere with a finely honed process that really doesn't need our help. There is a whole field of evolutionary linguistics to track and explain the changes:
http://en.wikipedia.org...

and a language tree with the most well known language family we have studied: indo-european.
http://dericbownds.net...

It is simply not in the nature of languages to stay the same, regardless of what we would prescribe for them.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://www.objs.com...
Debate Round No. 1
Westpaw

Pro

My opponent has brought up some very good points, though I am going to dissect these points to the best of my ability to further my own cause.
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"Generally people simply find it more prudent to adapt the language of the wider culture around them, as it allows expanded opportunities for communication and greater ease in daily living.{1} There is nothing of force involved in this process."

My opponent brings up an excellent point on the use of widespread language. However, one needs to note that my topic relates to that of culture, which is in itself useless.
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"As an example, take Latin. While it is indeed considered "dead" in the technical sense, as it has no native speakers, many high school and college students study the language extensively. It is still known. Thus I argue that language death does not necessarily imply a complete loss."

Latin is also used in Science and Law. Belle's point can actually be considered to further my own, considering the contributions that a language with no native speakers can affect so much.
=============================
"Encryption is no longer the complicated problem it once was thanks to computers. Complicated algorithms that were difficult to implement with the technology of the 1940s are incredibly simple given modern processing power. Indeed, the field of military encryption is alive and well."

My opponents argument regarding technology can also be enveloped to suit my own purpose; with access to technology that can essentially interpret and translate languages, my opponents point that large languages can provide ease of communication is becoming increasingly null. One can already use software to translate hundreds of languages on the computer, allowing for global text communication. My opponent also seems to think that because of modern day technology, minor languages would be much less important to the military. Any type of knowledge that the military has includes a possibility that it can be used for a useful purpose.

=============================

"Language is constantly adapting and changing to suit the purposes of those who use it. To try to preserve it in a freeze frame or prescribe certain changes is to interfere with a finely honed process that really doesn't need our help. There is a whole field of evolutionary linguistics to track and explain the changes."

The same can be said about tradition and lifestyle.

"Tradition and lifestyle is constantly adapting and changing to suit the purposes of those who use it. To try to preserve it in a freeze frame or prescribe certain changes is to interfere with a finely honed process that really doesn't need out help."
Even because of this fact, however, there continues to be Renaissance faires, reenactments, pow-wows, and cosplay events. Also note that none of these events are in a freeze frame, per se. One would be hard pressed to find one of these events that last more than a few days.
http://www.cosplay.com...
I have not even hinted that I propose to freeze frame languages. Instead, cultural and historic events can play an essential role in getting individuals interested in the language preservation process.

However, "Freeze framing" could also be beneficial in a historical context. From poems and legends to proverbs and jokes, documented languages can be useful to decrypt both carvings and paintings alike. The loss of languages is also detrimental to humanity's grasp of biodiversity, as humans transmit much knowledge about the nature and the universe.

=============================
Final Points:

Around 50 to 90 percent of all languages are at high chances of becoming extinct within a hundred years.
http://www.thelancet.com...(01)06332-2/fulltext#
In the same link, my central proposal resides. It is unrealistic to expect people to learn full languages, reaping little tangible benefits. Language documentation is a wonderful alternative.

There is no way I can provide my opponent with proof that language is an essential part of cultural identity. I also cant provide my opponent with any evidence that clothing is an essential part of cultural identity. This is up to the interpretation. What I can provide however, are examples of people actively engaged in preserving languages. In fact, I estimate that one can find more organizations attempting to preserve endangered languages than I can find organizations attempting to preserve historic clothing.
http://www.native-languages.org...
http://www.nativelanguages.com...
http://www.rosettaproject.org...
http://www.uaf.edu...
http://www.savenativelanguages.org...
http://www.sciencedaily.com...
belle

Con

"My opponent brings up an excellent point on the use of widespread language. However, one needs to note that my topic relates to that of culture, which is in itself useless."

Absolutely not! While some aspects of culture are probably useless, many others are not. The technology to build the computers we are using to communicate for example. Or the language in which we do so. These two cultural items alone have proved extremely useful to me over the course of my life.

"Latin is also used in Science and Law. Belle's point can actually be considered to further my own, considering the contributions that a language with no native speakers can affect so much."

Hardly. No one attempted to preserve Latin over and above other languages, they simply found it useful. Additionally, one language out of hundreds, if not thousands, having some use is no mandate to save the languages for the sake of diversity or culture.

"My opponents argument regarding technology can also be enveloped to suit my own purpose; with access to technology that can essentially interpret and translate languages, my opponents point that large languages can provide ease of communication is becoming increasingly null."

Unless and until we have a babelfish sort of technology than can be implanted in the ear and instantly translate whats heard, communication barriers do make a difference, even if that difference is smaller than it has been in the past.

"My opponent also seems to think that because of modern day technology, minor languages would be much less important to the military. Any type of knowledge that the military has includes a possibility that it can be used for a useful purpose."

That doesn't mean the Military should invest in a department of astrology to better predict the best days to start important campaigns. While knowledge is important to the military, simply advocating they amass as much as possible because they "might need it" is inefficient.

Even granting your premise that rare or obscure languages can be useful to the military, it doesn't follow that such languages need any native speakers to be known or useful, as the example of Latin is meant to demonstrate.

"Even because of this fact, however, there continues to be Renaissance faires, reenactments, pow-wows, and cosplay events. Also note that none of these events are in a freeze frame, per se. One would be hard pressed to find one of these events that last more than a few days.
http://www.cosplay.com......
I have not even hinted that I propose to freeze frame languages. Instead, cultural and historic events can play an essential role in getting individuals interested in the language preservation process."

So what? If people want to indulge in cultural habits of the past there is no reason to stop them. There is also no reason to encourage such activities, or be worried when languages start going extinct. If individual people think a language is worth saving they will do so. If they do not, then so what? Why should "strangers" to the language, with no interest in it whatsoever, work to preserve something that is found to be of no value to anyone?

"Around 50 to 90 percent of all languages are at high chances of becoming extinct within a hundred years.
http://www.thelancet.com......(01)06332-2/fulltext#
In the same link, my central proposal resides. It is unrealistic to expect people to learn full languages, reaping little tangible benefits. Language documentation is a wonderful alternative."

If the language isn't benefiting anyone, why are we keeping it around again?

"In fact, I estimate that one can find more organizations attempting to preserve endangered languages than I can find organizations attempting to preserve historic clothing."

Irrelevant. Just because a lot of people want to preserve languages, that doesn't mean that we all should want to do the same, nor does it make preserving languages at all important.

And again you refer to cultural identity and again I ask you- if a language is going extinct then that means it is losing native speakers- IOW it is part of very few people's cultural identities and will cease to be part of anyone's once it is extinct. Given this, how does it make sense to panic about people losing their cultural identity? It doesn't! The only cultural identities that are ever really threatened are those of people already dead.
Debate Round No. 2
Westpaw

Pro

Westpaw forfeited this round.
belle

Con

Extend my arguments I suppose.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Pwnu059 6 years ago
Pwnu059
yea preserve Latin!!!
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
those were probably all us :P

debates with forfeits don't go to the main page for voting, so no one knows this is here to vote on lol
Posted by Westpaw 7 years ago
Westpaw
108 Views and no votes? This is surprising.
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
you gave me the opportunity to post the smiths- i don't really hold it against you :P
Posted by Westpaw 7 years ago
Westpaw
It was a fun debate. I just couldnt post in the third round due to time constraints.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by belle 6 years ago
belle
WestpawbelleTied
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Vote Placed by Pwnu059 6 years ago
Pwnu059
WestpawbelleTied
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Vote Placed by I-am-a-panda 6 years ago
I-am-a-panda
WestpawbelleTied
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