Friday, March 30, 2012

languages live and die

Recent feature stories on (Internet audio & transcripts) Radio:

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues. [4/2011]
Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez are the only two people in the world who still speak Ayapaneco. This centuries-old language of Mexico is in danger of becoming extinct, and yet, the two aren't talking. An anthropologist working on a dictionary with the two aging men described Segovia as a "little prickly" and Velazquez as "more stoic."

Shoshone is one of many American Indian languages that is in danger of becoming extinct. But 10 Shoshone high school students from rural Idaho, Utah and Nevada hope to become future guardians of the language. This summer, they're spending six weeks at the University of Utah for the Shoshone Youth Language Apprenticeship Program.

A study based supported by the National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages identifies regions around the world where languages are dying. We hear some words from these disappearing languages.