では、言語が失われるとどのようなことが起きるのでしょうか。モンタナ大学のRosalyn R. LaPier准教授によりますと、言語が一つ失われるということは、その言語を育んできた文化が失われることを意味します。言葉は文化を表す道具であり、その道具が失われるということは、その文化に関する知識そのものも消えてしまうのです。この知識は翻訳で救うことはできません。言葉一つ一つの意味の中に、この知識が埋め込まれており、言葉を翻訳する過程で意味が消え、知識は失われてしまうのです。こうした例は、特に環境や生物に関する知識でよく見られます。
All over the world languages are disappearing. US Alaska governor Governor Bill Walker warned that in the United States warned that 20 native American languages will disappear by the end of this century. Previously in the United States, a policy was adopted to suppress the use of Native American. But in 1990, the US government switched to a policy that would protect the language of Native American, but it may be too late. Governments all over the world have adopted similar policies. And as a result of these policies, even now, many languages around the world are disappearing.
So what happens when languages are lost? According to Associate Professor Rosalyn R. LaPier of the University of Montana, losing one language means that the culture what cultivated that language is lost. Words are instruments that represent culture, and the fact that these tools are lost means that knowledge about that culture itself will also disappear. Knowledge which cannot be saved by translation. As this knowledge is embedded in the meaning of each word, the meaning will disappear in the process of translation which subsequently means that the knowledge becomes lost. These examples are commonly seen in knowledge of environment and organisms in particular.
For example, in Japan, there is a honeyberry the haskap berry which is native to Hokkaido. Sweet and sour is a term that is regularly used to describe jam and cakes. The word haskap itself derives from the ainu word "Hashikapu". It means "many things on a branch", but when translated as haskap this meaning is lost. This ainu language is one of many which is disappearing.
Currently, various attempts are being made all over the world to protect minority languages. Before the last speaker dies, she records words and teaches words to ethnic minorities in schools. Although such efforts are important, what is even more important is that the disappearance of these languages ultimately leads to the disappearance of human knowledge.