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Nick Evans delivers Dean's Lecture at the University of Melbourne 21 May 2015

Nicholas Evans, University of Melbourne

Date: 21 May 2015

On 21 May 2015, CoEDL Director Nick Evans delivered the University of Melbourne's Dean's Lecture on the topic "Unspoken, unheard: When our languages fall silent", to an audience of nearly 200.

"Most of the world’s 7,000 languages are no longer being learned by children, and by the end of this century it is likely that three quarters of them will be lost. A quarter of the world’s languages are spoken in our region, yet language loss is running faster on this continent than on any other.

Every few weeks an old person is buried – in the book and volume of their brain was the last and often unsuspected repository of an entire language and the knowledge it enfolds.

What do we lose when we bury such a person, and what can we do to bring out as much of their knowledge as possible into a durable form that can be passed on to future generations? Drawing on fragile minority languages from around the world, this lecture examines some of the key areas of knowledge that will be lost with language death – of the natural world, of the possibilities of language and the human mind, of deep history, of how to decipher ancient scripts. I conclude by asking what we can do to safeguard the rich linguistic heritage of our region."

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University