What you need to know about languages in the world is that they are like living rocks. In fact, languages around the world are always in motion. They rise, fall, and reinvent themselves in spectacular fashion. All languages are at various stages of their cycle of life. Some extraordinary ones even subvert the system and refuse to die. They reinvent themselves. And some, like ancient rocks, refuse to change even over time. This month’s cadre of language links shows how languages in the world have a life of their own.
An Emerging Language Draws On Other Tongues
In the far northern reaches of Australia, a rare and awesome sighting is occurring along the ring of fire. A new language is emerging in real time. The youth of an aboriginal tribe are infusing their native language of Walpiri with English and Kriol, and creating a new syntax that exists in neither language. Over the past 40 years, Dr. Carmel O’Shannessy has been a first-hand witness and historian to a new language island forming in a sea of English. This new language called “Light Walpiri” will mature and fend for itself as its young speakers do likewise. Emerging languages in the world, like Light Walpiri, helps to show us how languages form over time.
Languages In The World On The Brink
While Light Walpiri rises, the Skolt Sami language is falling. The Sami are the only officially recognized indigenous people left in the European Union, and many of their languages, like Skolt Sami, are disappearing. However, a champion of the language seeks to resist its eradication from the tongues of around 400 speakers. Sara Wesslin, a journalist, has successfully lobbied the Finish government for funds to teach Sami. Meanwhile, she herself remains a bulwark of Skolt Sami language dissemination. She is one of only two people in the world that broadcast in the language.
An Ancient Romance Language Resurfaces
Although you have probably heard of “Romance Languages,” you probably have not heard of Occitan. It is an ancient romance language, also referred to as Langue d’Oc, that was nearly eradicated by a French government edict forbidding its use nearly a century ago. However, this language buried its roots deep in the culture of the southern French countryside and refused to move. This resilient language experienced a healthy resurgence with about 3 million speakers, proving that some languages cannot be easily moved. In fact, several previously endangered languages in the world have experienced a renaissance thanks to dedicated speakers.
A Hawaiian Renaissance Among Languages In The World
In the remotest part of the Pacific Ocean on the Hawaiian Islands, an English-only law in 1893 forced an already disease-decimated population of Hawaiians to nearly abandon their native tongue. Christian missionaries had sought to support and to spread literacy from an alphabet created by a native Hawaiian. But even with this alphabet, the language barely survived. However, an unexpected renaissance occurred around the turn of the 21st century, largely through the efforts of local artists seeking to reclaim their traditional Hawaiian music and dance. Now, from fewer than 2,000 speakers in the 60’s, the Hawaiian language has more than 18,000 speakers and a renewed sense of importance. Among the languages in the world, Hawaiian offers an encouraging picture of what a dedicated few can do to protect and preserve a mother tongue.
Support for Linguistic Diversity Through Interpreting and Translation
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