Language Diversity between and within Cultures

By Kristiina Mai.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Diversity is a cornerstone for the future of humankind, just as biodiversity is a necessity for the healthy survival of nature and all the species in it. Without the rich variety of cultures and languages that have developed together with the environment in which its peoples have evolved, humanity would lose important links to the world that sustains it. The viability of a culture can be measured in terms of the number of language speakers. However, as a language becomes endangered, the diversity of the vocabulary also declines. The objective of this work was to explore the vibrancy of languages and cultures over time as a result of external forces, and to consider effective techniques to preserve languages. Measurement techniques, models and the role of technology are explored. The language diversity thus retained leads to the benefits obtained by appreciating it across cultures. It is proposed that greater strength and understanding can be obtained by appreciating other cultures. This will ultimately lead to the great value that language diversity has to offer, through the link between culture and environment around the world.

Keywords: Cultural Sustainability, Endangered Languages, Minority Languages, Language Diversity

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.197-207. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 385.565KB).

Dr. Kristiina Mai

Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada

Dr. Kristiina Mai Valter McConville is an Associate Professor at Ryerson University in Canada. She obtained her Systems Design Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo and her MSc and PhD degrees from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering from the University of Toronto. She draws on her Estonian background, and her experience in preserving the language in an English-speaking community. She has learned languages through working and studying in France and Finland and travelling to Moscow while working for the Canadian Space Agency. Her interests include the Finno-Ugric peoples: their diversity and their similarities. She is particularly interested in studying the similarities of this group to other cultures and in the sustainability of diversity in language and culture. She has published and spoken extensively in many fields including space research, in which she came to appreciate the delicate balance of the Earth's natural systems and its people.