SOME 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. And, according to the 2000 census, you can hear at least 92 of them on the streets of New York. You can probably hear more; the census lumps some of them together simply as "other."But by the end of the century, linguists predict, half of the world's languages will be dead, victims of globalization. English is the major culprit, slowly extinguishing the other tongues that lie in its path. Esther Allen, a professor of modern languages at Seton Hall University, calls English "the most invasive linguistic species in the world." Spanish and Hindi are also spreading, subsuming the dialects of South American Indians, and of the Indian subcontinent.In the next two weeks, however, some of these endangered idioms can be heard at two international literary festivals that celebrate languages big and small, as well as the power and resilience of words themselves. The festivals are taking place all over town, in places as diverse as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the New York Public Library, the Bowery Poetry Club and the United Nations. [...]
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