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Editor's note.

THE CURRENT ISSUE of World Literature Today presents a special section on endangered languages, a subject that represents an immediate threat to global cultural diversity and the endangerment of literatures as well. Throughout the eighty-plus years of WLT's existence, its editors, in-house staff, and hundreds of contributors have regularly provided comprehensive review and essay coverage of literatures representing languages from throughout the world. Since its initial focus in the late 1920s on various Western European literatures (e.g., French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, English, and Italian), WLT has expanded its purview to include, for example, Estonian, Frisian, Ladino, Occitan, Romansh, Tagalog, Urdu, Yiddish, and even Esperanto, a synthetic language that has fallen short of the expectations of its ambitious founders, who sought to create a universal language. The discussion of language in its written and oral forms is of primary importance to the staff of WLT, for it constitutes, in large part, the purpose for the very existence of our publication: to disseminate literary and cultural information of the world throughout the world.

The topic of endangered languages and literatures, brought into focus within the pages of this issue primarily through the conscientious efforts of two of WLT's most distinguished interns, Sydneyann Binion and David Shook (see their headnote on page 14), is addressed by a host of renowned writers, linguists, literary critics, and ethnologists, who have generously and often passionately offered their expertise. Just as war, poverty, pestilence, and ecological concerns have defined contemporary life on our planet, so, too, should our age be remembered as one preoccupied with a sense of urgency to protect and preserve the languages and literatures of the world, especially those on the brink of extinction. Such diversity is vital in communicating with and understanding one another, in helping to articulate and comprehend the complexities of life, in expressing our individuality, and in mapping the full capabilities and limits (both artistic and otherwise) of the mind.

In the spirit of Lux a Peregre--literally meaning "Light from Abroad," but more recently rendered as "The Light of Discovery"--the Latin motto accompanying our original 1927 logo, WLT will continue to devote its efforts to serving its readers culturally and linguistically through literature, shedding light on the multilingual richness of different regions and reflecting it to the rest of the world. Perhaps in this way we can offer modest yet meaningful support in sustaining--at least by way of the written word--the vitality of language and literature as an integral part of all human life and as an invaluable resource to the international community in fostering greater appreciation and variety of expression among peoples. Just as those who preceded us here at WLT, we believe that language preservation is key to maintaining civilization-both preserving its history and ensuring its survival.
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Author:Clark, David Draper
Publication:World Literature Today
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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