'The Linguists': Saving the World's Languages

Of the world’s seven thousand languages nearly half will disappear by the end of this century. Their extinction means the end of entire cultures, traditions, and histories.

K. Davis Harrison and Gregory Anderson are on a mission to save these dying languages. They’re linguists, but not the kind who spend their lives in libraries and classrooms.

They travel the world — from the Bolivian Andes to the steppes of Siberia — searching for the last speakers of native tongues. Think of them as action-adventure linguists with a cause.

This hour, On Point: the race to save vanishing languages.


Greg Anderson, co-founder and director of Living Tongues: Institute for Endangered Languages, he teaches linguistics at the University of Oregon.

David Harrison, professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, author of “When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge,” and co-founder and director of research for Living Tongues: Institute for Endangered Languages.

Daniel Miller, co-founder of Ironbound Films and co-producer, co-director, and writer of the documentary film “The Linguists”

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Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 25, 2015
Three of baker Renee McLeoud's delicious pies, on display in the WBUR studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

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