"The next century will see more than half of the world's 6,000 languages become extinct. Most of these will disappear without being adequately recorded. Yet each distills the philosophy, knowledge, and cultural fabric of a different people. This compelling book asks what loss to our collective intellectual heritage will be inflicted by the death of these languages. This book: Explores the unique philosophy, knowledge, and cultural assumptions of languages, and their impact on our collective intellectual heritage Questions why such linguistic diversity exists in the first place, and how can we best respond to the challenge of recording and documenting these fragile oral traditions while they are still with us Brings conceptual issues vividly to life by weaving in portraits of individual ?last speakers? and anecdotes about linguists and their discoveries." from publisher.