ENDANGERED LANGUAGES IN NEW YORK CITY AND BEYOND
January 29 – April 16, 2015
There are nine different words for the color blue in the Spanish Maya dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six [blue] butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.
Opening on January 29th at the City Lore Gallery on the Lower East Side, the new exhibition, Mother Tongues: Endangered Languages in NYC and Beyond, explores NYC as a living language lab where there are more spoken and endangered languages than anywhere else in the world.
The way we speak defines who we are. Whether we speak with a New York City accent or an accent from the country where we were born, or in another language, we contribute to the symphony of linguistic diversity that defines New York City. By the end of this century, over half of the world’s languages will be lost. It has been estimated that over 800 languages are spoken in New York, and 100 are endangered. With the loss of a language comes a loss of culture, a way of thinking and a way of life. This exhibit explores endangered languages spoken in New York, and offers a call to action to conserve linguistic diversity in this global city and around the world.
Mother Tongues offers audiences a unique opportunity to meet and learn about New York City’s remarkably diverse linguistic communities. Here visitors can engage with the Language Laboratory and Meet a Speaker—interactive mixed media booths that showcase individual speakers of endangered languages. From the decline of the New York accent to the wealth of history and tradition behind a single, resonant word, Mother Tonguestakes us on a journey through the endangered linguistic diversity of New York City and the world.