Languages are vanishing. Experts estimate that more than half of the world's 7000 languages will disappear in the next century. Linguists are desperately scouring the globe, tracking down dialects before they go extinct. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge stories and sounds from a language hunter. Also, what babies babble says about our mother tongue. And, a Bosnian author learns to write English.
Peter Ladefoged travels all over the world recording the sounds of human speech. He talks with Jim Fleming about his adventures, and plays examples of some of the unusual language sounds he's caught. Ladefoged is a linguist at UCLA and the author of "Vowels and Consonants." Also, developmental psychologist Jana Iverson tells Jim Fleming about new research linking baby babble to the earliest sounds made by the first human speakers. Iverson teaches at the University of Missouri.SEGMENT 2:
Frederic Cassidy died in June at the age of 92. In this conversation from 1991, Cassidy tells Steve Paulson some of the regional treasures he captured for his Dictionary of American Regional English. Writer Paul West has compiled a life-list of words, with their strange etymologies in "The Secret Lives of Words." West tells Judith Strasser about some of his favorites: muscle, pandemonium and asbestos, and more!SEGMENT 3:
Bosnian writer and journalist Aleksandar Hemon was stranded in the U.S. by the siege of Sarajevo. Because of the war, he swore off his native language of Serbo-Croatian and taught himself to write in English. Hemon tells Steve Paulson how he did it. Hemon's just published a collection of short stories, "The Question of Bruno" to great critical acclaim.Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 00-07-09-A.
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