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Death of Language
Thread poster: Susy Ordaz

Susy Ordaz  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 3, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

the following is taken from a very interesting article I read in "Woman's Weekly" of the May 2007 edition, which I would like to share with you all:

"At least 30,000 languages (and possibly many more) have disappeared, often with trace. Only a few-Basque, Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Sanskrit and Tamil, have lasted more than 2,000 years.
It's thought that around ten languages die out each year, a process that goes through four phases. A language is:

At risk- when fewer than 100 people are native speakers.

Endangered - if at least 30% of the children no longer speak the language

Moribund- when it has only a few adult speakers-between 2 and 20.

Extinct-when no one can speak the language with any fluency.

I was wondering if we had any members that fit into any of these language categories mentioned above because it would be fascinating to know them. Speakers of ancient languages!!
Cheers!
Susy Ordaz


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lingomania
Local time: 06:56
Italian to English
Statistics Jun 3, 2007

Hi- Statistically speaking, this is very interesting. I know that the Etruscan language disappeared in a similar way and that only a handful of people know anything about how to "decipher" it, but this might be a topic fit for the Ancient languages sector.

Rob


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member
English to Turkish
Moved the topic... Jun 3, 2007

... to the forum Linguistics


Cheers!
Özden


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:56
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Two good books on the subject Jun 4, 2007

This is a topic that English native speakers have to take seriously!

Firstly because we get accused of 'killing' other languages by imposing ours on the world as a global language,

and secondly because as first-language speakers we need to keep our native language(s) usable and distinct from the global lingua franca. There are already hundreds of dialects, pidgins and creoles, and some of these are in fact endangered too!

There is a lot of food for thought in:
Language in Danger, by Andrew Dalby
(2002 Allen Lane/The Penguin Press, ISBN 0-713-91443-6)

and
Language Death, by David Crystal
2000, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521012716

-- They address questions like:

What is language death?
Why should we care?
Why do languages die?
What can be done?

Language and change
Language and community
Language and nation

...
Etc.

There are lots more, but these are just two very readbale books I happen to have on my shelf.
(And I have in fact read them )


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Susy Ordaz  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Death of Language Jun 4, 2007

I was going to put it into the Ancient Languages Forum, but apparently it has been moved to Linguistics. Thank you for the correction.

Christine, that was very intersting information, must buy the book. However my original question was if we had any colleagues within Proz that spoke any of these categorial languages.

They are unique and privileged to speak such diverse and wonderful languages?

Thanks.
Susy


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not only ancient languages Jun 4, 2007

Susy Ordaz wrote:

I was going to put it into the Ancient Languages Forum, but apparently it has been moved to Linguistics. Thank you for the correction.



What a fascinating topic! My mom grew up speaking Yiddish at home and a lot of the older relatives on my dad's side grew up speaking Ladino, so the disappearance of once-thriving languages is a topic I find fascinating and emotional.


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Susy Ordaz  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ladino Jun 4, 2007

Wow Steven! Ladino? I don't even know what language that is. From your last name I thought for sure you were Italian. Yiddish is still I widely known and spoken language. But please tell me more about Ladino.

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member
English to Turkish
I considered Ancient Languages, too Jun 4, 2007

But since it seems to cover the languages died out for long, I thought the general topic of Linguistics would provide a better coverage for your thread.

Ladino is not dead yet, but seems that it's dying out. You can see it here, Susy, and being a Portuguese speaker, can even understand it a bit. It's the form of 15th century Spanish still spoken by older Jewish generations to some extent. They say that within the Jewish community in Turkey (most of which is Sephardic in origin) today there's hardly anyone under 60 that can speak or understand this language, which is also called Judeo-Espanyol. But this weekly, Şalom, published in Turkey still reserves one page in each issue for Ladino.





[Edited at 2007-06-06 15:28]


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 16:56
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
I could buy a CD Jun 4, 2007

Hi Steven

Some years ago I found a CD in France, with songs in ladino interpreted by "Berta" Aguado and Loretta "Dora" Gerassi.

I enjoy following the lyrics and also the sens of humor of the songs.

I also find this topic fascinating, and it's a pity to admit that all languages are not in equal situation. Some communities or cultures are more sensitive and aware of the problem and will try to fight again the disappearance. Others will resign and consider that it's normal to lose the language.


Claudia


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Paipai and Koalt Jun 4, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

... a lot of the older relatives on my dad's side grew up speaking Ladino, so the disappearance of once-thriving languages is a topic I find fascinating and emotional.


Part of my first serious job was transcribing tapes that a sociologist (of Ladino descent) had made of Ladinos in Morocco talking about their wedding customs. It was amazing. But they must have been speaking Spanish, because I don't know Ladino!

I know Suzy is looking for speakers of dying languages, and I'm not one, but ...

In the 1970s, I spent a lot of time with an Indian band in Northern Baja California, whose members spoke two dying language, Paipai and Koalt, similar to the languages spoken by the Kumeyaay in San Diego County (USA). I'm almost certain that the two languages are now dead, as only a few dozen people were speaking them. I tried to make a Paipai glossary, with a pencil and paper. But I had no training as a linguist (I was 18!) so they are probably not of much use to anyone--and sadly, I'm not sure anyone cares.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Member (2006)
French to English
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Cornish Jun 4, 2007

lingomania wrote:

Hi- Statistically speaking, this is very interesting. I know that the Etruscan language disappeared in a similar way and that only a handful of people know anything about how to "decipher" it, but this might be a topic fit for the Ancient languages sector.

Rob


The Cornish language used to be spoken in Cornwall, and is one of the Celtic languages related to Breton (still spoken a little in Brittany, I believe) and Welsh (still much spoken, certainly in North Wales). Cornish died out as a spoken language in the early 19th century. The "last Cornish speaker" was one Dolly Pentreath whose tombstone can be seen in Paul churchyard near Penzance. To whom she spoke if she was the only speaker is not on record.
The language is now studied by academics and used in Druidic ceremonies about Cornwall, but I don't believe it is spoken at home in families as a true mother tongue any more.
Regards,
Jenny.


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Susy Ordaz  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wow! Jun 4, 2007

Ozden, the link you put in your posting was amazing. And you were right I understood practically everything. I think I could even translate it into English or Portuguese.

Although my original idea was to find colleagues that spoke some of these "dying" languages, it is nice to know that a few of our colleagues had brief encounters with these beautiful languages. It´s a real shame and Claudia I do care about this matter I don't know how to help resolve it.

Patricia I also hadn't heard of Paipai or Koalt but I looked them up in the internet and this is what I found. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Paipai:
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idioma_paipai

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ppi

I found nothing on Koalt.
Thanks everyone.


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lingomania
Local time: 06:56
Italian to English
Interesting Jun 4, 2007

Jenny Forbes wrote:

lingomania wrote:

Hi- Statistically speaking, this is very interesting. I know that the Etruscan language disappeared in a similar way and that only a handful of people know anything about how to "decipher" it, but this might be a topic fit for the Ancient languages sector.

Rob


The Cornish language used to be spoken in Cornwall, and is one of the Celtic languages related to Breton (still spoken a little in Brittany, I believe) and Welsh (still much spoken, certainly in North Wales). Cornish died out as a spoken language in the early 19th century. The "last Cornish speaker" was one Dolly Pentreath whose tombstone can be seen in Paul churchyard near Penzance. To whom she spoke if she was the only speaker is not on record.
The language is now studied by academics and used in Druidic ceremonies about Cornwall, but I don't believe it is spoken at home in families as a true mother tongue any more.
Regards,
Jenny.


Very interesting indeed Jenny. Thank you. I gather that there are still traces of Cornish, but with Etruscan, it seems to have disappeared into oblivion without leaving a single trace (some say thanks to the Romans).


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Suzy, THANK YOU! Jun 4, 2007

Susy Ordaz wrote:

Paipai:
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idioma_paipai

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ppi

I found nothing on Koalt.
Thanks everyone.


Suzy,

It was amazing for me to read those links!! I was in Santa Catarina, and actually, I erred in what I said in my earlier posting. I stayed with a woman who spoke Koalt (it is written so that the "T" at the end has a line through it--I don't know what sound that stands for), but it was, indeed, a Kiliwa Indian that I was recalling. He lived outside of the main group, and he could speak Paipai but people considered him something of an outsider and didn't speak his language. (I don't really know if it was a bias, or simply practicality--no one other than the man and his family spoke it, so why bother?) I have a picture of him and of the Koalt woman behind me, here in my study, where they can bless my progress as a translator. Too bad I was so young and they were old--otherwise, I might have had a different career.

You really started a fascinating discussion (even though we've drifted away from your original question).

Thanks, too, to Jenny, for my laugh of the day: "The "last Cornish speaker" was one Dolly Pentreath whose tombstone can be seen in Paul churchyard ... To whom she spoke if she was the only speaker is not on record."

Best,
Patricia


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member
English to Turkish
Ubykh - died recently Jun 5, 2007

A Northwest Caucausian language whose exact date of death is known: it became extinct in 1992, with the death of Tevfik Esenç, known as the Last Ubykh.

Ubykh was one of the several Circassian groups lived in the Russian imperial territory and progressively moved southwards to Ottoman lands in more than one wave of immigration, eventually settling mainly in what are now Turkey and Syria.

In Turkey, you can find a Circassian connection in many families (including one side of my maternal family), and for whatever reason, these groups seem to have been rather quickly assimilated. Religion seems to be one factor here: they had left a country, where they lived as a religious minority, for other lands where they became part of the mainstream religion. And the situation seems to be more or less the same in other parts of the Middle East, judging by my familiarity with groups who later migrated to Turkey from Syria, and spoke no language other than Arabic and Turkish.

Whatever the reasons and factors were, these languages didn't survive for long in the new territories, and Ubykh has been extinct for about 15 years now. French linguist Georges Dumézil managed to collect a lot of information about it with the help of Tevfik Esenç before his death. Esenç recorded sound files for him, provided a whole lot of grammatical help and documents, and prepared his epitaph long before his death: "This is the grave of Tevfik Esenç. He was the last person able to speak the language they called Ubykh." You can read his sad story in the pages above. He reminds me of the mute man in the movie Where the Green Ants Dream (this Aboriginal character wasn't mute at all, but was the sole speaker of an almost-extinct language, just like Esenç).



And here is an anecdotal description of this interesting language:
As the legend goes, when the Turkish sultan first heard of Ubykh, the bizarre-sounding language spoken by Muslims who had emigrated from the northwestern Caucasus in the mid-19th century, he dispatched a servant to learn more.

When the servant returned, he described what a language with 83 consonants and one vowel* sounded like by taking out a bag of pebbles and pouring them on the sultan's marble floor. ''Listen to these sounds,'' he said. ''Foreigners can gain no greater understanding of Ubykh speech.''

* 84 consonants and 2 vowels, according to Wikipedia.




[Edited at 2007-06-05 21:46]


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