Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Noble Savages

In response to a Languagehat post, a reader by the name of Semantic Compositions made a comment that struck me as being a good description of the mentality a lot of people seem to have about "globalization" and its supposedly corrosive effects on other cultures:

I think that Hitt's attitude, though -- along with a lot of other sentimental types -- is that indigenous people the world over are supposed to live in mud huts, and engage in nothing but subsistence farming and muttering creation myths around fires.
Then enlightened travelers like Jack Hitt can come around and coo over how cute the living museum is. So when some particular grouping of syntax, vocabulary items and phonology stops being spoken by the natives, it's like losing a one-of-a-kind painting or other exhibit. But the sense of loss over the language ignores the question of whether or not the people involved are any happier. That's why I felt Hitt's viewpoint was so toxic.