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—Special Live Performance Events in Cities Across the Country Highlight the

Cultural Diversity of Endangered Language Speakers—

where will meanings be when the words are forgotten -WS Merwin

New York—There are over 6,000 languages remaining in the world. We lose one every two weeks. Hundreds will be lost within the next generation. By the end of this century, half the world’s languages will have vanished. The die-off parallels the extinction of plant and animal species. The death of a language robs humanity of ideas, belief systems, and knowledge of the natural world.

David Grubin Productions is pleased to announce a series of events coinciding with PBS’ January 2015 airing of Language Matters, a two-hour documentary that asks: What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language?

The premiere event in New York—the most linguistically diverse city in the world—takes place at the National Museum of the American Indian on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. The documentary airs on THIRTEEN, the flagship PBS station based in New York, on Sunday, January 25th at 12:30 PM. Events are also scheduled in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum; in Chicago at the Poetry Foundation; and in San Francisco at The Exploratorium. For further information check your local listings or visit

Language Matters was filmed around the world: on a remote island off the coast of Australia where 400 Aboriginal people speak 10 different languages, all at risk; in Wales, where Welsh, once in danger, is today making a comeback; and in Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue.

“Most people know that we are losing species,” says Bob Holman, a poet widely known for his expertise in oral traditions. “Ask schoolchildren, and they’ll know about the panda or the orchid—they’ll have done a project on it. But ask someone if they know that languages all over the world are dying, maybe one in ten might.”

Grubin, whose films include LBJ, FDR, The Jewish Americans, The Secret Life of The Brain, and The Buddha, says: “Most people in the world speak more than one language—monolingualism is a recent phenomenon. We’re really celebrating diversity, looking at the vast domains of creativity, knowledge and thought encoded in language and what is lost when a language disappears.”


Credits: Director/Producer/Writer: David Grubin; Executive Producers: David Grubin and Bob Holman; Executive Producer for PIC: Leanne K. Ferrer; Conceived by: Bob Holman; Editor: Deborah Peretz; Cinematography: James Callanan and Bob Richman; Director of Motion Graphics: Brian Oakes; Associate Producer: Oliver Grubin. Language Matters is a co-production of David Grubin Productions Inc. and Pacific Islanders in Communications. Major funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Press Contact: David Grubin Productions |


Endangered Language News and Features

The New Yorker, Judith Thurman, A Loss for Words: Can a Dying Language be Saved?
Wall Street Journal, John H. McWhorter, What the World Will Speak in 2115
Al Jazeera, Ross Perlin, Capitalism, colonialism and nationalism are language killers
New York Times, John McWhorter, Why Save a Language?
New York Times, Sam Roberts, Listening To (and Saving) the World’s Languages
New York Times, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Who Speaks Wukchumni?
National Geographic, K. David Harrison, Two Traditional Languages Evade Extinction With the Internet
Huffington Post, Alissa Stern, Protecting Our Cultural Endangered Species: School Policies
The Atlantic, Rose Eveleth, Saving Languages Through Korean Soap Operas
Los Angeles Times, John M. Glionna, For Navajo Nation, Candidate Stirs Questions about Saving Dying Language
Poetry Foundation, Harriet Staff, The Navajo Nation’s First Poet Laureate, Luci Tapahonso
BBC News Magazine, Caroline Davies, The people who want their language to disappear
RTE News, DUP MLA Gregory Campbell reprimanded for Irish language parody