Saturday, December 03, 2005

Depressing Fact of the Day

...but an interesting article, overall:

...five Indian subcontinent languages were irretrievably wiped out during the tsunami that obliterated islands in the Bay of Bengal earlier this year.

Think about it for a second or two; five actual languages gone in pretty much the blink of an eye. We're used to thinking about the death of languages as sort of a long, drawn-out, process, giving everybody lots of time to put together grammars, collect archives, and so on, but not in this case. It's kind of an eerie thought, actually.


Luna said...

Thanks for the link. I recently worked on a project that was archiving Lacandon (one of the languages mentioned in the article), so this was of particular interest to me.

There were a few nitpicky problems in the article (for example, he calls Maya one language, when it's actually about a dozen. Lacandon is called Maya by their own speakers.) Mostly minor, and doesn't really affect the article as a whole.

I wish more emphasis had been put on the indigenous languages of North America - they're in far more dire straits than Mexican languages (for the most part - naturally there are exceptions). It would also be nice if he'd have mentioned more ways to prevent language death.

Bazz said...

Thanks for the comment! I suppose, in the area of preventing the death of languages, that one might look at Irish or Welsh as models, but you would probably know better than I. As far as Native American languages are concerned, I know that there is a push on to preserve them up here, especially in the Northwest Territories, which has about nine official languages. I could not comment on the success of these measures, however.

Luna said...

Are you in the NWT? I know there's a pretty impressive language preservation program going on in the Dogrib community, but I don't know about any of the other languages.

A good part of the problem in southern Canada (where I am) is apathy, even amongst the speakers themselves. It seems they don't get worried enough until it's either too late, or almost too late. Which is a damned shame.

I've tried to garner some interest in preserving Nakota (in Saskatchewan), but didn't get anywhere. There's more interest in the Salish languages in BC, which is great, but frankly, those languages whoop my butt. :)

I like your blog. I have a new site to read. YAY! (Like I needed more. Sheesh.)

Luna said...

Oh, shannon=luna. I fixed that the other day.

Bazz said...

Thanks for the compliment!

I'm actually in Alberta, where the Native language situation is largely dominated by Cree. I actually used to work at a university bookstore, and the Cree-English dictionary was one of the more popular choices from the language section. My experience with the NWT came a few years ago, when a family member was living up in Yellowknife.

Luna said...

You're welcome. :)

Ahh, Alberta. I almost feel sorry for you. But I'm in BC, and we've got Campbell. :-S

Cree is a fascinating language. Lotsa weird and cool stuff going on it in its word formation system (morphology, if you're a geek - like me). Cree isn't endangered, at least not yet. But there are plenty of other endangered languages in that province. The Stoney south of Calgary don't have many left. And the Dene up north, they're in a bit better shape, but not as strong as Cree.

Yeah, I could go on. In fact, I am. And I'll stop. :)