Curt Rice lecture on March 11 covers birth and death of languages

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Did your grandparents use words no longer in your vocabulary? Do your children or grandchildren use words you’d never heard of?

“Language is always changing,” said Professor Curt Rice of the University of Tromso in Norway. “Sometimes this happens slowly, across generations, taking 400 or 500 years for a language to die. But sometimes, language death happens suddenly. Fewer and fewer people speak some language, and then when the last speaker dies it is suddenly gone.”

Rice will present “Language Death, Language Birth: The Life Cycle of Human Language” at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 11 at the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation (CRI), an off-campus facility located at 3801 Bemidji Avenue North.

Rice’s lecture is the third in the spring Tuesday morning lecture series sponsored by the Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL) and coordinated by the CRI. ALL lectures are free and open to the public.

Half of the Earth’s six thousand languages may die by the end of this century. Rice will discuss what is lost when a language dies, whether languages can be revived and whether new languages are ever born. He will also address some of the language cycles seen in Minnesota, including English, Ojibwe and Norwegian.

Rice has spent time in Bemidji every summer since 1984, primarily at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village at the Concordia Language Villages, where his primary function is as Consort to the Dean.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning offers humanities-based programs that are made possible in part with private donations and BSU support. More information about ALL is available by contacting the Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900 or by visiting its Web site,

2008 Spring Academy of Lifelong Learning Lecture Series Schedule

  • March 11: Curt Rice, “Language Death, Language Birth: The Life Cycle of Human Language.”
  • March 18: Will Weaver, “Literacy and Teens: the Challenge of Reading.”
  • March 25: M. James Bensen, “The Impact of Emerging Technology on Our Lifestyle.”
  • April 1: Russ Lee, “Assisting the Assisters After a Disaster.”
  • April 8: Janet Rith-Najerian, “Dragonflies.”
  • April 15: Fulton Gallagher, “Opera – For Real!”

March 11
– 10-11 a.m. – Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture series presents Curt Rice “Language Death, Language Birth: The Life Cycle of Human Language.” Location: Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation; 3801 Bemidji Ave. N.; Bemidji, Minn. Cost: free. For information: (218) 755-4900; (888) 738-3244;