Letter: 'Dead' languages are the key to civilisation

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The Independent Online
Sir: The welcome article on the School of Oriental and African Studies needs amplification in crucial respects. Donald MacLeod sees its justification primarily in political terms, but this is a narrow view.

The languages, countries and cultures studied at Soas encompass more than two-thirds of the world's population, more than half its sovereign states, and

the majority of its principal civilisations.

These are vital and growing areas of study and research, quite apart from the obvious political importance to this country of the world to the south and east of Europe.

We cannot retreat into our comfortable European shell and ignore the world's diverse languages and cultures, any more than we can ignore its now fashionable biodiversity.

Yours sincerely,

J. R. BAINES

Oxford

23 July

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