Can a dead language be revived?


The answer to that is a definite yes, though there is only one example of success. Hebrew, a language without native speakers from about the 4th century AD, survived in liturgical texts for 1,400 years until it was resuscitated  in the 1880s and went on to become the national language of Israel in 1948. It now has over 5 million native speakers. That’s an impressive achievement and a reason for hope. With the world’s stock of some five thousand languages diminishing rapidly as minority languages everywhere are snuffed out, we might wonder if a bit of linguistic engineering at a more propitious time in the future will bring some of these treasures back to life. That thought must inspire the field researchers who work with the remaining speakers of moribund languages across the globe, gathering all the information they can about sounds and structures as time runs out.  

Continue reading