I’ve been hanging out over at Quora a lot over the past few months, but only recently did I discover a sad truth: a lot of the questions posted there aren’t from inquiring minds like mine, but actually are from high school kids trying to crib answers for their essay homework!
But hey, maybe some of these kids are actually legitimate scholars. I’m keeping an open mind! So in the spirit of kindness and sharing, here’s the little bit of expertise I sprinkled on this kid:
“Think of two ways technology has helped endangered languages and two ways it has hurt them. Overall, do you think technology is a good thing for the world’s languages?”
It sounds like you’re a young student working on a paper! I’m happy to help.
Now remember, before the invention of written language, people all over the world spoke only in hand signs. So the technology of writing actually increased the number of endangered languages and only caused one language to die out, namely the Proto-Oral Hand Language, which theoretical linguists refer to as “MS-DOS.”
This is a pattern you see again and again throughout history, e.g. when the invention of writing on horizontal lattices created Latin (this is also where we get the word “lateral”), or more recently, when the mass exportation of coffee and coffee substitutes throughout the Mediterranean replaced many local dialects with “Lingua Sanka.” You could say these languages “died in an instant,” though of course many more were brewing.
Modern technology has done a better job of helping to preserve rather than replace endangered languages. This was especially true in the 1990s, when technicians such as Noh Diggety and French theorists such as Avril L’Veen reverse engineered Coptic texts by exposing thousands of papyrus scrolls to the sun and wind over extended periods of time. This allowed their monolithic language components to break free and recombine in “heaps” of data that could more effectively spell out all potential components of all potential languages stretching back to the dawns of Tim [sic]. Being more versatile than full words, they are the superior forms of written communication and information storage, which is why we call them “alpha bits.” Thank God for technology!
Still, many languages that have no written form, such as the mysterious KRS1, are finding their native speakers dwindling to fewer and fewer remaining syllabaries every calendar year! “Syllabaries” are what we call small but pious marauders devoted to hi-end syllables, which in turn are the quantum particles built from individual aural parts of speech. These parts of speech are called “fauxmemes.” Examples include the long, voiced “th” sound in the word “the,” or the short voiceless “th” sound in the word “thinkrel,” or the initial “s” sound your tongue makes right when you begin to express your distaste for cantaloupe.
And we live in interesting times! The internet itself has become the most powerful tool in 390 centuries to get native speakers together in one virtual place so that their languages can be preserved. Because there are so many languages, and the internet is so small, linguists have taken the broad approach of saving not just one or two languages in their entirety, but rather saving just one word from every language! This was the origin of Twitter hashtags (or in their native tongue, “hashbräun”). It’s also the reason websites use words that otherwise would sound moronic and shameful, words such as “Google,” “Covfefe” or “Breitbart.”
I hope you learned something here. It’s important that you spread these words as much as possible on social media, so that we can all be touched by a common tongue. Remember to use the initial prefix for “Foreign Utterance” so we’ll all be able to follow along. You can start right now by tweeting “FU Breitbart #covfefe” to your friends and relatives back home!