Wait — there was a word for that According to linguists, 7,000 languages are spoken worldwide, half of which could disappear by the end of the century if steps aren’t taken to save them. With them will go some of what we know about cultures, our history, the natural world, and even some aspects of the human brain. Because they are so isolated, some populations have words in their vocabulary for concepts existing only within that culture — for example, the Tofa people of Siberia, reindeer herders whose local language is highly specific to this activity. New Mexico is in one of two endangered-language hot spots in the United States; the Southwestern area covers New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. (At even higher risk are languages in the Pacific Northwest.) In some cases, only a handful of people still speak a given Native language — Wichita, for instance, is a Caddoan language with fewer than three speakers. Greg Anderson and David Harrison, leading experts on declining languages, were the subject of a 2008 documentary titled The Linguists. Harrison is also the author of The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages, a book published by National Geographic in 2010. Anderson and Harrison, who both work for the National Geographic Enduring Voices Project, also run the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving languages via technology. The Lensic Performing Arts Center and the International Folk Art Alliance present a multimedia overview of the two scholars’ efforts, “Saving Endangered Languages: Greg Anderson and David Harrison,” at the Lensic (211 W. San Francisco St.) on Monday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. The evening features photos and video clips of speakers of some of the world’s most endangered languages and includes a question-andanswer session. Tickets are $10. Call 505-988-1234 or visit www.lensic.org. In conjunction, the New Mexico History Museum (113 Lincoln Ave., 505-476-5200) hosts a free screening of The Linguists at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Linguists David Harrison, left, and Greg Anderson, center, with Charlie Mungulda, who speaks Amurdag