Skip to comments.How Do You Learn a Dead Language?
Posted on 01/31/2008 10:15:54 AM PST by forkinsocket
Last week, Chief Marie Smith Jones, the only remaining native speaker of the Eyak language, died in her home in Anchorage, Alaska. Chief Jones' death makes Eyakpart of the Athabascan family of languagesthe first known native Alaskan tongue to go extinct. Linguists fear that 19 more will soon follow the same fate. Fortunately, starting in 1961, Chief Jones and five other native-speaking Eyaks worked with Michael Krauss, a linguist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, to document Eyak in case future generations want to revive it. How would you go about learning a language that nobody speaks?
It depends. A well-documented language would have a dictionary, grammar book, a body of literature (such as folk tales or religious texts), and, in some cases, videos and recordings that a dedicated student could learn from. Eyak, for example, has all of these. Ideally, the grammar book and dictionary would spell out the sounds of the vowels (and tone, if there is any). If there isn't good documentation, linguists must reconstruct the language using whatever written stories or religious texts remain, and then borrow words, grammatical structures, and pronunciation from closely related languages, patching together their best guess at what they think the language sounded like.
In some cases, a language that's classified as "extinct" is still spoken in certain contexts. Latin, for example, is considered extinct, or dead, but is taught in schools and used in religious ceremonies. A language is generally considered extinct if it's no longer used in daily conversation. To be a livingor nativelanguage, people must use it as a primary means of communication.
(Excerpt) Read more at slate.com ...
Listen to a McCain speach?
Converse with dead people?
How Do You Learn a Dead Language?
I am sure she has been taped over the years and translated along with the other 19 mentioned.
But why would you want to learn a language no one else knows?
Obscure indian languages can be lost and perhaps leave no trace. If that were to happen, they would be extinct. But Latin, though a dead language, is not likely to be extinct while civilization remains on earth.
“But why would you want to learn a language no one else knows?”
i think it has something to do with Bush and global warming.
"You have to see them first".
>>But why would you want to learn a language no one else knows?
So nobody else can listen in when you talk to yourself. :)
I speak conservatively, which is rapidly headed for extinction. Is anyone listening? Recording? Documenting?
How Do You Learn a Dead Language?
Vanilla Ice also knows Latin:
Latin is far from dead. Actually it is being kept up to date and is in constant use in itself as well as being semi-concealed in a large fraction of English, French, etc.
I remember posting both those threads... but the Mix-A-Lot one was more fun!
Why do they fear it? After all what good is it if no one speaks it?
. How would you go about learning a language that nobody speaks?
Much more importantly WHY would you?
This might happen to English in 100+ years.
25+ if we don’t secure our borders.
The problem is right there. It is a spoken language. Or was.
Kind of reminds of the classic question in Strategic Business Management classes:
“Who bought the first telephone offered for sale? And Why?”
4 the after-life??
That is one of the funniest things that I have read in a long time. Thanks!
Does speaking fluent drunkinese count as a language?
You’re most welcome. Because of your comment I decided to bump the thread. :)
The Vanilla Ice in Latin thread was also damned funny. I wonder what other pop music has been translated into Latin in a similarly humourous fashion...
A case of all Chiefs no Indians.
Languages aren't some sort of noble end unto themselves, other than study for linguists.
Language is for communication. If you can adequately communicate your thoughts in a "living" language, what do others matter?
I’m sure it’s out there.
A cursory glance at YouTube and other sites shows that there are PLENTY of people out there with too much time on their hands.
A FReeper favorite!
LOL...Never thought of that.
Military tactical communications?
That's like asking "why paint if you have a camera?" or "why make pictures in color if black & white will do?"
Language affects how - and even whether - certain ideas can be expressed (see the appendix to "1984"). At an extreme, one can expand one's own thought process by adopting another language, improving the toolset for conceiving and expressing ideas - even if only within one's own head. The notion of "can you adequately communicate your thoughts" is subject to self-restriction derived from not knowing if there is a superior form of communication, and not knowing if you're not thinking something because you don't have the semantic toolset needed to formulate ceratin thoughts.
There's a reason why Italian is preferred for opera, English for technology, Korean for literacy, Japanese & Chinese for calligraphy, French for romance, C++ for systems programming, Lisp for AI, etc. - each is better suited for certain categories of cognitive expression. There are great works written in dead languages ... beautiful expressions of notions which are lost because nobody understands them; more's the pity.
Hire a dead linguist?
Korean for literacy? When the English language has the most beautiful and meaningful written works of all mankind?
English will be a dead language in the USA if Juan McCain is elected president.
Cornish is a Celtic language formerly spoken in Cornwall, in SW England. It became extinct in the 18th century but apparently there are people today trying to revive it. Manx was spoken on the Isle of Man until a few decades ago when the last speaker died. It was related to Irish Gaelic. I suppose it would be useful if you had a Manx cat which refused to respond to commands in English.
A Romance language called Dalmatian died out in 1898 when the last speaker died. About 1% of the population of Switzerland speaks Romance dialects known as Rhaeto-Romance--they are so few in number it's thought that the language may eventually die out.
Literacy in terms of how many can read/write. Written Korean is very easy to learn (nigh unto trivial), having (unlike most languages) actually been created by an accomplished linguist (the then-king around 1500). With just 24 phonetic characters, plus a simple syllabatic representation, it’s actually much easier to learn to articulate written Korean than to comprehend it.
This in contrast with English, which has an insane number of linguistic exceptions, phonetic variations per given symbol, hominyms, etc. being a cobbling-together of multiple languages.
Literacy rate, then. Interesting. Thanks for the lesson.
It’d be interesting to know more about those native languages, their origins, and their relations (if any) to Asian languages. It’s a shame when a language like that dies out.
We have a winner for best post of the day!
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Or Hebrew -- which was nearly extinct in daily use, but taught for religious rituals, much like Latin. It was revived as the official language of the present-day State of Israel.
Cornish is a Celtic language formerly spoken in Cornwall, in SW England.
Popular with game hens.
Manx was spoken on the Isle of Man until a few decades ago when the last speaker died. It was related to Irish Gaelic. I suppose it would be useful if you had a Manx cat which refused to respond to commands in English.
Because otherwise, those poor cats would just be chasing their tails. Oh, wait.
A Romance language called Dalmatian
Are you Dr. Doolittle? What's with the need to talk to Manx cats and Dalmatians?
But no English-speaking countries have been at war with one anotherfor centuries.
I thought this would be an article on the Dim’s graveyard voters!
Another example of a language preserved because of its use for religious purposes, after dying out as a spoken language, is Coptic, a late form of the Egyptian language still used by the Coptic Church. It has an alphabet using Greek letters with some additional letters for sounds not found in Greek.