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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Arapaho Language School
I'm pleased to see another tribe taking active steps to revive its language. They have built a school for their young children where Arapaho will be spoken throughout. This is an optimum way to pass on the language to a younger generation -- the fluent speakers all being elders now. Hopefully they'll be able to undo the damage done by the invading Europeans. Read more about the program here.

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tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
That's really wonderful.

One of my native tongues is a dead language and it makes me very sad whenever I think about it. I wish more places would do this.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

Far as I know, a language isn't considered dead until its last living speaker dies.
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

We were told it was considered "dead" when there were no longer any children speaking it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Indeed not, and I'd be very suspicious of such a pronouncement. It's a good way to discourage native peoples from revitalizing their languages.

A language which is no longer an everyday part of its community, and not being passed on to children, is considered "moribund."
http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Moribund-language

As long as there are native speakers alive, however, a language can be revived by teaching it to new people, preferably young children. Are there any other living speakers of your language? And what is it?
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Pite Sami - there are less than 20 known (native) speakers in the world.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

If they live near each other, that would be enough to revive the language. There are native languages that have come back from just a few elders. It's hard, though. Many languages are going extinct because they aren't being passed on. The speakers dwindle down and die out. It's really sad.

I thought from the name that yours must be related to Saami, Finnish -- and it is. I found some sources online that mention it:
http://www.bookrags.com/wiki/Pite_Sami
http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/europe_report.html
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Yep, that is precisely it. :)

The main reason I don't really see it expanding is that within the Sámi community it is being taken over by other varities. There is no longer a tightly knit community that speaks it. Hell, I'm a native speaker of it and never lived in an area with any others aside from the family members that spoke it around me.

Combine that with a general movement to speak more Swedish, and the general requirement to learn English... and Pite has little, if any, reason to continue fighting for itself.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

That's so disappointing. When a language dies, a whole worldview dies with it. The little turns of phrase, the words for things you can't find in another language, the songs and stories that lose something in translation ... those all disappear.

There's a wonderful book on threatened languages, Spoken Here:
http://www.amazon.com/Spoken-Here-Travels-Threatened-Languages/dp/0618565833
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

It IS very sad. Over the past several years I've been collecting things on Pite, to document them properly. Including sound files and whatnot. Not sure what I'll do with them, but I feel that it's good to have them. Especially since Pite had no formal writing system.

That sounds like a fantastic book. I'm definitely going to be reading it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

It's good that you're collecting sound files and so forth. At least there will be an imprint left as a fossil language. If you talk with other linguists, you may find something to do with those materials. Many linguists are interested in documenting moribund languages.

Is there a writing system that's a decent match for Pite Sami, or is it different enough that there are sounds or changes not easily marked in extant systems?
tyskkvinna From: tyskkvinna Date: October 19th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Yeah.. I'm quite sure it will be useful to somebody. My primary interest in linguistics (and what I went to school for) is the opposite side of language - creation, not death.

Most people who write in Pite Sámi just use the Swedish system of phonetics, though sometimes Finnish accents are introduced.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

I'm interested in many aspects of linguistics, but sadly it's not what I studied in school. I'm far enough along that I'm starting to wish I could take some classes in linguistics.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: October 20th, 2008 09:54 am (UTC) (Link)
This interests me as the Irish language has been in decline for a long time. We are made to learn it at school, which I disliked at the time, but value now, as I still have a couple of words.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 20th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

From what I've heard, Irish is starting to make a comeback in recent years. There are Irish-language newsletters now, language clubs -- subsidized ones in some places -- and talk about an immersion school. Some preschools and daycare centers also teach Irish, which is vital.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: October 20th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

it's not being widely spoken in the community, though, outside gaeltacht areas, parts of the country where native Irish is spoken as a first language. People get hung up and embarrassed about it - plus the grammar is kind of tricky. It is a great language for poetry though - a lot of assonances and echoes. I find the indirectness has survived in our inability as a race and nation to talk real, something which I, who have a distinctly non-Irish sensibility, find irritating.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 21st, 2008 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Yes, and those features are built into the poetic forms, too. Trying to write Irish poetry in English is a real pain.

English has its own style of indirectness, though -- most notably the "passive exonerative." ("Mistakes were made.") This makes it a popular choice for business and politics.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: October 21st, 2008 11:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

"most notably the "passive exonerative." ("Mistakes were made.") "

translated into Irish - "It failed on me" - maybe slightly more direct but not much!
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: October 21st, 2008 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

I meant transliterated, sorry.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 21st, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

*laaaaaauuuuugh*

I love it! I'll bet this is where Americans got the phrase "It died on me" (referring either to something like a plant that actually ceased to live, or something like a car that merely ceased to function).
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