I am so moved by this post written by my favorite poet Antoine Cassar who inspired the creation of Poets of Babel!
Originally posted on Antoine Cassar:
Back in the summer of 2009, I came across a fascinating book called The Atlas of Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Maria Polinsky. I spent several days enraptured by its wealth of knowledge, colourfully presented in photographs, charts, maps, fact snippets, word lists and anecdotes, short stories and traditional poems. The book stands out from other ‘language atlases’ not only in its exciting presentation, but also because it never loses sight of the peoples that speak each language and write in each script. Its main message was clear: richness of language and culture is richness of humanity; the beauty and wisdom of a single language, script, proverb, folk tale etc. enrich not only the speakers of that particular tongue, but mankind as a whole.
I revisit the book from time to time to remind myself of how incommensurably wide and diverse the world is. Have you ever heard of Kapampangan, a language spoken by around 2 million people in a small area of Luzon island, the Philippines? Did you know that a variety of French is still spoken today in the coastal areas of Louisiana? That the classical Mongolian script is written vertically? Or that the reason behind the rounded characters of the Dravidian alphabets of southern India (often compared to fruits, as opposed to the ‘hanging laundry’ of the Devanāgarī scripts of the north) was the need for greater visibility amid the sturdy, straight veins of the plantain leaf they were often written on?