The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it’s at risk of extinction.
There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company.
“They don’t have a lot in common,” says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco. Segovia, he says, can be “a little prickly” and Velazquez, who is “more stoic,” rarely likes to leave his home.
Putting aside the rather ironic nature of this news, a quick search shows us that language loss is still very much an important issue today. According to the Unesco‘s own Language Atlas, there were still 8 speakers of Ayapanec in 2005, which makes it a “critically endangered” language. Closer to home, Asturian-Leonese is considered a “definitely endangered” language with 150,000 estimated speakers. Basque, although healthier, is seen to be “vulnerable”.
Over on The Rosetta Project website, you can find an online version of their original Rosetta Disc, containing documents and vocabulary in over a thousand languages, since updated and upgraded to more than 2,500.
Last but not least, a video talk worth watching at Fora.tv – Daniel Everett: Endangered Languages and Lost Knowledge. It’s worth watching on the site because the player has several good features such as a Transcript tab, to help you follow along. You can also use the Chapters tab to review specific parts of the talk.
Strange Random Language Quote:
Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. – Mark Amidon
- The Last Two Speakers of a Dying Language Aren’t Talking To Each Other (neatorama.com)
- Resources: Himalayan Languages | Quot linguas calles, tot homines vales (lingeducator.com)
- Micro-blogging in a mother tongue on Twitter (textually.org)
- Vocabulary List of Navajo Words (brighthub.com)
- Great Site on Endangered Languages of Europe (robertlindsay.wordpress.com)
- Language News: Popular Linguistics Covers Endangered Languages (lingeducator.com)
- The 10 Most Endangered Languages In The World (businessinsider.com)
Another example of strange humour in English and a reminder that a Thesaurus is indeed a great investment, along with a good dictionary, of course. Double or even triple your vocabulary!
Strange Random Vocabulary Quote:
“I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy. I was deprived. (Oh not deprived but rather underprivileged.) Then they told me that underprivileged was overused. I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime. But I have a great vocabulary.” – Jules Feiffer
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