Monday, February 05, 2007

Endangered Languages

Just finished Mark Abley's Spoken Here, the brilliant book on minority languages mentioned below. He is an amazing writer. (His comparison of English to Wal-mart truly made me shudder.) I have always believed that language not only reflects a people's way of thinking, but also informs it. Even a cursory study of Old and Middle Irish will call to mind James Joyce. It's not surprising that such a fluid and complex tongue would produce a race of people who revel in words and play with language - their own or their conqueror's - because their thought patterns spin and spiral. Here are two stunning verbs from the Boro language: gabkhron - to be afraid of witnessing an adventure. And onsra - to love for the last time. And here is a wonderful statement from Abley when speaking of the struggle to keep endangered languages alive. Their struggle, it should be clear by now, is part of a worldwide battle to prevent language annihilation. But even this larger battle - I ask forgiveness for the metaphor - may be part of a wider war, perhaps the central one of our time: the fight to sustain diversity on a planet where globalizing, assimilating, and eradicating occur on a massive scale.

9 comments:

Greg said...

I loved that book, what a good read. And I also enjoyed the chapter The Verbs of Boro. "To express anger with a sidelong glance." What a great word. It's sad that so many of these languages are dying out.

Greg said...

Oops. Sorry for posting my comment so many times. I didn't realize comment moderation was on.

OR Melling said...

I have to quote myself here (sorry),a phrase I repeat in my Faerie books which is important to me as it represents hope. "Not all that is gone is gone forever." For example, Abley points out that there is a photo of "the last Manx speaker" who died a good few years ago. Yet there is today an ongoing effort to keep Manx alive.

deeshedee said...

O CANADA was sung in Cree at an NHL hockey game the other day in Edmonton. It was beautifully sung by a 14yr old young woman, Akina Shirt.

deeshedee said...

I forgot to mention that this was a first. It made all the news here and drew lots of attention to the plight of fading languages and cultures.

magicaldamselfly said...

I love coming here and reading this blog as I always feel the magic. I love reading your works with the language in it and you are right it will get lost on the way side if no one uses it.
I live in the USA so I've only gotten to read the first two books so far and I'm anxious to know when a new book to the chronicles will be released here?

Blessings,
Sheila

Bookmark said...

I love the idea of O Canada in Cree - because it promotes the language - but I'm also ambivalent about it. The First Nations people I know do not consider themselves Canadian or American, but see themselves as belonging to their own particular nation. Oh, and Sheila,thanks for your kind words. The next Faerie book will be out in April of this year. If you pop over to Book Blog and click on the September 2006 Archives and scroll down, you'll find the art work for the cover of The Light-Bearer's Daughter. It is only gorgeous!

Aphra Behn said...

There's a book about the bauria language? I have had shivers about the verb "to love for the last time" ever since I first heard the phrase a couple of years ago on the radio. And "to be afraid of witnessing an adventure" is a verb to conjour with as well. What disturbingly poetic ways of understanding people.

Right. Amazon. Thank you,

Aphra,

OR Melling said...

Not the entire book, but there's one chapter on the Boro language. The speakers of that language live along the Brahmaputra River in northern India, near Nepal. They've got verbs to die for!