Crossroads ‘Vanishing Languages’ lecture

Orcas Crossroads Lecture Series will host linguist Greg Anderson, who is presenting “Vanishing Languages: highlighting the Salish Experience” on Wednesday, May 1 at 5 p.m. in the Episcopal Parish Hall.

Anderson is director of Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and a National Geographic Society Fellow.

The global language extinction crisis stands out among the most widespread but still poorly known social issues of the 21st century. More than half of the world’s languages will likely disappear this century. When the last elder-speaker of a language dies, they take with them a vast repository of knowledge and history of an entire community and region.

“It is because language shift is happening largely among subjugated and ignored segments of the population,” Anderson said.

In this talk, he will contextualize the global language extinction crisis, its causes and consequences. Language diversity and language endangerment are not evenly distributed globally, and he will talk briefly about how and where centralized efforts need to be focused in the 21st century. He will give examples of communities that are taking steps in this struggle around the world with the assistance of linguists and activists from Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Turning from the macro-scale to the micro-level, Anderson will introduce the audience to the situation in the Pacific Northwest region stretching from the southern Alaskan panhandle across British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

“Many of the voices of this region have already fallen silent, but steps are being taken to combat the language extinction crisis on the local level,” said Anderson. “I highlight some grass-roots movements among federally recognized groups as well as communities that lack current federal recognition from the region, focusing on language groups that belong to the Dene and Salish families.”

Anderson will delve into the deeper ideas of what language can and can’t achieve. For instance, language creates identity and a unique historical record. But Anderson says there is a myth that common language leads to mutual understanding.

“It can be easily disproven by the incredible number of civil wars fought in the past and present, including our own Civil War – common language didn’t stop that – in fact I am unaware of any war ever having been fought over language as the primary motivating factor,” he said.

Come with your questions for the Q & A session, and a reception following the presentation.

Tickets are $10 and available at Darvill’s Bookstore, online at or at the door. Some complimentary tickets are available in advance at the Orcas Senior Center.

The next lecture features award-winning author Sallie Tisdale, who will present “Questioning Charity: The Real Impact of Giving” on Sunday, May 12 at 2 p.m. at Orcas Center.

Find more information at the Orcas Crossroads website:

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