Foundation for Endangered Languages

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6. Book Reviews

Daniel Abondolo (ed.), The Uralic Languages.
Routledge Language Family series, paperback reissue 2006 (originally issued in hardback 1998).
ISBN 10 0 415 41264 1

The Language Family series of volumes from Routledge is making a welcome return to the market in paperback form. Along with the Uralic volume, we can also see the reappear-ance of the Dravidian, Turkic, Indo-European, Bantu and Semitic language series. Each vol-ume is edited by an acknowledged expert in the field, and consists of chapters on the indi-vidual languages or groups of languages within the series. They are therefore invalu-able to the comparative linguist and language typologist, but this particular volume is of additional interest to the endangered language specialist, because most of the languages it covers are to a greater or lesser extent endan-gered. This book contains extensive material on the history, phonology, morphology, grammar, syntax and lexicon of a range of languages whose long-term future is far from assured in all but three cases (Finnish, Hun-garian and Estonian), and includes Saami, Mordva, Mari, Udmurt, Komi, Khanty, Mansi, Samoyedic, Nganasan, Nenets and Selkup. An invaluable guide to a widespread family of languages, with information not available elsewhere in English, collected un-der one cover. The volume is comprehen-sively supplied with maps and tables.

Chris Moseley

E.M.Rickerson & Barry Hilton (ed.), The 5 Minute Linguist: Bite-sized essays on language and lan-guages.
London & Oakville, CT: Equinox Publishing, 2006.
ISBN 10 1 84553 199 X

The U.S.Senate and House of Representatives designated 2005 as ‘The Year of Languages’ in the United States, and the American Coun-cil on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) did its best to ensure that this cele-bration did not go unnoticed. Among the many prongs of its activities was a radio se-ries broadcast on American public, commer-cial and college stations called Talkin’ about Talk. The project was co-ordinated by the two editors of this volume, centred at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. It consisted of a whole year’s worth of weekly five-minute broadcasts, 52 in all, authored by various experts on different aspects of language, and set out to explain the answers, in simple lay-man’s terms, to some commonly asked ques-tions about language: “How many languages are there in the world?”, “Why do languages change?”, “Do all languages have the same grammar?”, “What does it mean to be bilin-gual?”, and, if interest to readers of this or-gan, “Can a threatened language be saved?” – among many others. The title and starting-point of each five-minute talk is a question. Like so many great ideas, it’s a simple and effective one, and it cannot have failed to provoke a lot of revision of assumptions about language among its listeners.

Equinox Publishing, based in London, is to be congratulated on putting these talks into printed form, slightly revised, and augmenting it with a further eight papers, bringing the total to 60. To a professional linguist, perhaps the questions posed in some of the titles may seem a little naïve, but on both sides of the Atlantic the monolith of English tends to impose a curtain of ignorance about other languages and language in general, so this little initiative is to be heartily welcomed.

Chris Moseley