Many thousands of languages are spoken today across the world. Each language offers a unique perspective, a world view, a window into the mind of its speakers. Language are richly varied and this variation offers insight into what is possible and what is not, and why. However, languages are in catastrophic decline in the 21st century. Last speakers of languages die every year and take with them an entire cultural library, history or thoughts, jokes, riddles, songs and mysteries of their communities that have accrued over millennia. Here I celebrate the rich diversity of our collective intellectual heritage, offering samples of the many different ways humans divide up the human experience, and what and how they choose to speak and think about and the many different ways people represent their unique knowledge, including different writing systems and the many different ways of counting. I also present how, where and why this kaleidoscope of sounds and knowledge are under threat, what is being lost, and what can and is being done about it. The problem is global, the solutions are local. Examples come from across the entire spectrum of diversity from across the world.

Presented as part of Anna Craycroft’s C’mon Language project and the TBA:13 Festival. For more details on weekly events, visiting artists and scholars, and other related events, please visit the C’mon Language event page below.