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четверг, 30 июня 2011 г.

121. Language death: one language becomes extinct every two weeks

Have you ever thought that our life can be traced, recorded and remembered as long as our language continues to exist? There are approximately 6,500 languages in the world, half of which will disappear by the end of the century. An alarming statistics indicates that currently one language is disappearing every 14 days! For example, Berbice Dutch (a Dutch creole) spoken in part of Guyana (a country in South America) has been declared officially extinct according to the March issue 2010 of National Geographic magazine. The man in the illustration above is Manuel Segovia, one of the last two people speaking the language Ayapaneco, the original language of Mexico. Manuel calls this language Nuumte Oote, which means"The true voice".

Just like the language Ayapaneco, there are more than 3,000 other voices around the globe that want to be heard. Dr. Mark Turin from Cambridge University has undertaken an endeavor trying to preserve some of the world's dying languages. He is now director of World Oral Literature Project and attempts to bring together all the like-minded people to help preserve the language diversity, one at a time. Watch this video where he shares his vision and encourages others to join:

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  1. Assignment 1:

    Watch part 1 of the video (0:00-3:01) and fill out the gaps with the missing words and expressions:

    Here’s the Shaman that I 1)_______. I’d only been in his village for a week and I was starting to learn his language. I said, “…” I thought that I’d 2)_________ his big hat, but in fact I was talking about his genitals. The whole village laughed. The shaman 3)________ forgave me, and I learned a new word and an endangered language that was at risk of disappearing.

    My name is Mark Turin. I’m an anthropologist, and I work on language death. About every two weeks another beautiful and unique language around the world dies when its last speakers 4)_________. For about a decade now I’ve been working in a 5)_______ mountain village in Nepal with the community called the Thangmi. I’m amazed by what complex ideas a language like this can 6)________.

    Thangmi is spoken by fewer than 20,000 people. Because it’s never been studied before and because the kids at school are only learning Nepali, the national language, it’s disappearing fast. I came to Nepal as an academic linguist to write a grammar of the Thangmi language. In the process of doing it I realized that it wasn’t going to be enough because they needed 7)____________ to help them 8)_______ and 9)___________ their own language. And my book, a thousand pages of linguistics in English – that wasn’t going to help.

    So I put together a Nepali-Thangmi-English dictionary. It’s the first published 10)________ of a language. That’s now being used in schools and I think it’s a part of the process to help 11)_________ their sense of pride in their language and their 12)_______.

    And when I came back to England I realized that was just the beginning. There’s so much more to do. About three thousand languages, half of the world’s number of spoken languages, they risk dying, 13)__________, just like Thangmi. Every language is a unique 14)_________ of a worldview. There’s botanical, medical, all kinds of scientific knowledge 15)_________ in languages.

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  2. Assignment 2:

    Watch part 2 of the video (3:01 - till the end) and fill out the gaps with the missing words and expressions:


    Languages are really the vehicles for the 1)_______________ of culture. It’s the 2)_____ histories, the songs, the mythologies, and the 3)_________. That’s what we risk losing when languages die. I realized that I don’t always have to go to the field. I can also bring people to Cambridge to work with me here, 4)____________ not only their languages, but also their cultural traditions.

    Right now I’m working with Nhima Bhuti. She comes from a remote Himalayan village of just 13 houses. In a 5)_________ like hers where social relations are so important, the 6)________ terms you use, the relationships between uncles and aunts, and brothers and sisters are very important. Her 7)__________ system is a view into her world.

    I’m working with the doctor Emchi Nhima. He’s a traditional Tibetan doctor from a remote part of the Himalayas. I’m also working with a 8)________ called Yadju from the Tamu community of Nepal. Yadju is 9)__________. He speaks two 10)____________ languages. One is a normal 11)___________ he speaks with his children, but the other is the ritual language that he uses to communicate with the 12)__________ when he goes into 13)_________. He’s the last speaker of this ritual language.

    No single researcher can do all this work by themselves. There’s so much work to do that I put together a new 14)__________: the World Oral Literature Project.

    “The Project was established in January this year, and I think of no better way to celebrate our first year of operation than this event.”
    And based here in Cambridge I’m bringing people together, 15)_________ from all over the world who work on endangered languages and endangered cultures. We’re coming up with the best ways to record and archive cultural knowledge and we’re training local researchers to document their own cultures. This is really a unique archive, it’s a snapshot of what it means to be human. This work has to be done now before everything disappears.

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