언어발달에 대해서는 많은 연구가 있다. 하지만 ‘언어가 죽어갈 때’ 어떤 일이 벌어질까? 사람들이 세상에 남기는 마지막 말의 모양은 어떠할까? 181명의 사람들이 죽기 전에 남긴 말들을 모아 분석한 <Words on the Threshold> (2017)에서 그 실마리를 찾을 수 있을 것이다.
“Smartt also wondered whether her notes had any scientific value, and eventually she wrote a book, Words on the Threshold, published in early 2017, about the linguistic patterns in 2,000 utterances from 181 dying people, including her father.”
“To assess people’s “mental condition just before death,” MacDonald mined last-word anthologies, the only linguistic corpus then available, dividing people into 10 occupational categories (statesmen, philosophers, poets, etc.) and coding their last words as sarcastic, jocose, contented, and so forth. MacDonald found that military men had the “relatively highest number of requests, directions, or admonitions,” while philosophers (who included mathematicians and educators) had the most “questions, answers, and exclamations.” The religious and royalty used the most words to express contentment or discontentment, while the artists and scientists used the fewest.”