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Re: How common is bi-lingualism?

Thanks you, Claudia Bruckman, for your thoughtful reply to my question re
the prevelance of bi/multi-lingualism. Your answer for a common
pre-colonial Australial multi-lingualism seems very convincing. Concering
California, however, may I remain a little skeptical yet?

You write: "I have before me a map of California,taken from Leann Hinton's
book (1995) _Flutes of Fire_, which names 45 languages indigenous to
California which still have speakers or had speakers at the time language
records were kept by anthropologists & linguists. The description of the map 
says 'there were probably at least fifty other languages in California 
when Europeans arrived.'"

If in fact there were about 100 languages in California in 1600, say, that
would seem to suggest, at least to me, the likelihood that the majority of
the people were not bi/multilingual. 100 languages across that many square
miles (with concentrations along the coastal mts. and along the base of the
Sierra Mts, I think) would give quite large language areas; large enough
for most of those who lived within a tribe's boundaries(and not on the
borders of the language area) little use for bi/multilingualism.

I wonder if we have any experts on China on this list? I understand that
China is currently by far the most ethnically diverse country on the
globe--I wonder how many in the countryside of these various ethnicities
speak more than their own ethnic language?

(Perhaps I should add: My own area of expertise, such as it is, is
Polynesian history--the ocean created great distances and restricted
commerce among Polynesian but, still, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Hawaiian,
though called different languages by some, remained generally recognizable
across languages. So, e.g, when Cook arrived in Hawaii for the first time
after leaving Tonga, he and his men were able to communicate fairly well,
using the Tongan they had learned. Some believe it had been at that time as
long as 300 years since any direct communication between Hawaii and other
Pacific islands had taken place.)

Houston Wood,  Academic Coordinator for Writing
Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, HI 96813
808-544-1118 fax:808-544-0862 hlwood@aloha.net