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Vanishing Languages

 
 
Letty
 
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 02:02 pm
Fabaezer suggested that I start a thread on a vanishing species. In this case, it's not a member of the animal kingdom, but languages.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=406324

This was quite a surprise to me
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 18,817 • Replies: 148
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 02:10 pm
I have always had mixed feelings about this subject, and would really like some input.

I think that, as living creatures, languages born and die. We should try to protect the living, but make no tragedy of the natural (and cultural, in this case) circumstance of a few deaths.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 02:43 pm
fbaezer, I can only speak one language, but you obviously are bi-lingual. Somehow, this article made me realize how many things are lost that are valuable, if only as a link to study former civilizations.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 03:03 pm
fbaezer has it as per usual.

I wish all languages would survive but even the dead ones live on, I'd not call most dead but rather dormant.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 03:24 pm
This is one of problems in Europe.
Thus, the European Council has created the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

To find out more about these languages, this websites gives some excellent (short) information:
Minority Languages
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 May, 2003 04:00 pm
following the thread to see how it develops.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 01:46 pm
Saw Walter's link.
I have a problem with EU's definition of minority languages. It seems to them more a problem of the rights of minority populations than a problem of vanishing languages.
Catalan, Swedish, Turkish, Slovenian? Freakin' alive & well.
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 01:50 pm
I do not see any problem when the languages disappear, but their former speakers remain alive, just switch to languages of the ethnic majority. Yiddish and Ladino are almost out of use, but this does not mean that Jews are endangered ethnos (at least, not after 1945).
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 01:57 pm
What is argued, steissd, is that a culture, a cosmovision is lost.

For example, didn't Isaac Bashevis Singer write in Yiddish? It would be quite obvious that the ones who can grasp the most of what he wrote are the people who speak Yiddish.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 01:57 pm
You are correct, fbaezer, but those mentioned languages are really 'vanishing' in some regions, certainly not in their 'origin countries'.

However, there are mentioned a couple really vanishing languages as well.
That's the main reason, why I posted that link.
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:04 pm
Fbaezer wrote:
For example, didn't Isaac Bashevis Singer write in Yiddish?

Well, he did; ditto, Sholom-Aleikhem (Solomon Rabinowitz). But their books are familiar to broad public mainly in translation into English, Russian, Hebrew, maybe other languages as well. I do not think that contents of their stories would change if they wrote them in English and Russian, respectively.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:07 pm
We have two Yiddish chairs in Germany (Trier and Düsseldorf), and Yiddish is taught at a couple more univeristies here.

There are Yiddish radio programs, magazines and books (I personally like especially reading "Shmul un Shmerke".)
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:14 pm
Is not this language almost similar to archaic version of German?
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:39 pm
Many native American and African tribal languages are in danger of extinction- that may be a natural and inevitable process, but they should at least be recorded and set down before they die out- they may offer valuable sociological clues about the past.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:40 pm
On the 'language tree' we have High German (old, middle, new) with the 'branches' Franconian, Swabian, Yiddish and Danish.

So, it's neither by origin nor by sound similar to "archaic" German.

Interesting: in 19th century, in the Palantine villages of Hertlingshausen, Carlsberg and Altleiningen a different language came in use : "Lotegorisch". This is taken from the Yiddish "Loschne ha koidesch" (holy language). People speking this language were called "Lotegorischdiwwer". They were of Jewish origin, were "hännler" (travelling merchants)as profession.

This language died, when travelling merchants couldn't earn enough money any more, in the first decades of last century.
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 02:43 pm
Well, recording of extinguishing languages may have certain culturologic value (just as there are studies of the dead languages: Maya, Aramaic, Latin, Assyrian, etc.). But artificial preservation of non-viable (due to social circumstances) languages on expense of their bearers' integration into the modern society is, IMO, excessive.
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CodeBorg
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 03:44 pm
Very interesting exercise ... to trace cultural evolution by the evolution of languages! Like DNA genomes, individual words and phrases come and go depending on who you mingle with.

If a language becomes extinct, it's a sad but natural process, so I would just hope we can record samples for posterity. "Remember, back in the day, when everything was 'Wicked' or 'Rad'"?

My first language (Latvian) is from an obscure Urgo-Hungarian root that's separate from the romance languages, going back 3000 years almost directly to Sanskrit. (So I'm told). One can see the effect of Swedish, German and Russian occupation of Latvia by the words incorporated into the current language over time. The Swedish-based words are very old, while the Russian-based words include more technology and modern subjects.

Do I miss the "pure" Old Latvian of pre-historic days? No, but I respect it. I'd like to know it, just to sense what life was like back then.

Another notion: The sound of words changes your actual physiology and psychology. Native Americans and folks from India speak with many 'ah' and 'ooh' sounds (from the chest), while the Texas twang has many 'ee' and 'ay' sounds (from the head). Just my theory, but one mode encourages you to speak from your diaphragm and chest, while the other gets you to speak from your nose and sinuses. Does this produce more heart-speak versus head-speak? More spiritual/emotional communication than analytic/intellectual patterns?

Hmmm.... could be, could be. When I'm calm, loving, and open I definitely speak more deeply and resonantly, from the chest, and when I'm analyzing technology and strategies at work, my voice changes entirely, to an irritating but rapid buzzing. So the language itself may incorporate and also encourage that way of being.

It would be interesting to see a chart of languages mapped to their common phonemes, and the emotions/attitudes that seem to pervade each culture.

Extending that thought, is it possible by analyzing the sounds of a primitive language, that social archeologists may be able to reconstruct some of the psychology or emotion of the times? The "way of being" that people carried around with them? A grunt or a cry says a lot about how you are. Wouldn't these effect how a language sounds?

Archeology of culture, mind, and personal being!
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 05:20 pm
dear steissd, Maya is not dead at all.

There are 1.5 million Maya speakers in Mexico alone. About 5% of them speak only Maya.
Children go to bilingual schools in the Mexican Southeast.
In Guatemala, 4 million people speak Maya: 40% of the population, the percentage of monolinguism shoul be higher.

Nobody speaks Classic Maya, just as nobody speaks Old English.

Classic Maya has derived in several Maya languages: Yucatec (Yucatan Peninsula and north of Guatemala), Quiché (Most of Guatemala and Belize) , Chol-Tzotzil (Chiapas), Huasteco (part of Chiapas, Southern Mexico, part of Guatemala and part of the Huasteca region in Northeast Mexico) and Chujean (Guatemala and a tiny part of Chiapas).
The languages have the common Maya root, and the peoples can communicate quite easily among the languages (like Spanish Castillians can understand Catalan or Galician).
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 May, 2003 12:13 am
Modern dialects of Aramaic are still spoken by small minorities in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.The majority of speakers are in emigre communities of Armenia and Georgia
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 May, 2003 03:29 am
Fbaezer wrote:
There are 1.5 million Maya speakers in Mexico alone.
Hmm, I was almost sure that the Maya Indians were completely extinguished by conquistadors, and that modern Mexicans were descendants of Spaniards...
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