In a piece titled Vanishing Voices, the current issue of National Geographic presents five languages across the globe that are on the verge of becoming extinct. According to NatGeo, “one language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 14,000 languages spoken on earth will likely disappear…”
The evolution of language is the evolution of mankind. Language is so much more than the way we communicate. It is the way we relate to ourselves and to the world. Language creates the way we think. And by thinking in a certain way, our very brain chemistry is changed.
When speakers of the Seri language ask “Where is your placenta buried?” they are actually asking “Where are you from?” As NatGeo explains, Those who were born before hospital births know the exact spot where their afterbirth was placed in the ground, covered in sand and ash, and topped with rocks.” That one simple question about the location of placenta burial assumes the continuity of countless generations. Nowadays, asking someone “Where is your placenta buried?” would most like evoke “Dude, you is a funky monkey.”
When speakers of Aka use the phrase “is looking at liver,” they are referring to the ritual slaughter of cattle, which must precede every marriage. That phrase will determine the very well-being and happiness of the bride and a groom. Nowadays, saying you are “looking at liver” would most like evoke, “Dude, you is a funky monkey.”
Let us turn now to the two bestselling books of all time. Each uses language in extraordinary ways. Each is a statement of how we see the world and how we see ourselves in it. The first, the Bible, written thousands of years ago:
In the beginning was the word
In the twinkling of an eye
Red sky at night
Many are called but few are chosen
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb
Let not the sun go down on your wrath
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it
A broken heart
The next, Fifty Shades of Grey, written just this year, and representing the culmination of our language, our thoughts, our desire to reach beyond our human frailties to another level of being:
Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?
She turned seven shades of crimson.
My subconscious is frantically fanning herself
My subconscious has reared her somnambulant head
My subconscious nods sagely
My inner Goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot
My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves
So the next time you hear someone say “That be dench,” you can respond with “Leathal bizzle be cool, mon.” Or you can just ask them where their placenta is buried.