Marcelo Dascal
Endangered Languages

8. An alternative view

What do the Acoma of New Mexico think about the multiplicity of language?

All the above efforts, be they politically or scientifically inspired, were based, as we have seen, on the Genesis assumption that there was something intrinsically pernicious in the multiplicity of natural languages. I want now to explore with you the possibility of an alternative view. A view that considers the multiplicity of languages beneficial to humankind, an asset, rather than a liability.

latiku is the mother goddess of the Acoma tribe of New Mexico. Her name has been chosen --- quite appropriately, as you will see -- as the title for the Newsletter of the recently created Foundation for Endangered Languages, whose first issue appeared in May 1995.

Iatiku's reason for multiplying languages -- the reduction of quarrels among men -- is, on the face of it, quite puzzling. Why would she think so? I can only guess -- and you probably too. But at least she considered linguistic multiplicity as positive rather than negative. Her view -- whatever her reasons -- offers a welcome alternative to the predominant Babelian paradigm. It is certainly worthwhile to explore the possibility opened by the Acoma myth.

Regardless of Iatiku's own reasons, I think there are powerful arguments in favor of a positive attitude towards the multiplicity of languages. I will try to spell out some of them. These arguments will be of different kinds:

Arguments in favor of Language multiplicity

Chapter 9

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