Endangered Languages

Franco   Sat Sep 22, 2007 12:44 am GMT
At what point does a not common language become no longer a 'practical' language for general use, and become more of a culture pride subject, spoken with the aim of preserving it not for practical use?

It seems many languages exist, which lack native speakers altough people learn it for cultural and preservation reasons and may reach 'competency' but not true native speakers (almost always they are far more competent in the predominant language). Is it possible for such a language to return to status as a general language, spoken for practical reasons or will it always (if it doesn't die out) remain a language of tradition and culture but not everyday communication?
Mallorquí.   Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:59 am GMT
Unesco Red Book of endangered languages: Europe.

Guest   Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:36 am GMT
Once language reaches the point where it's 'native' speakers are more fluent in another language, it will never recover. It's fall can be slow, but will fall.
Guest   Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:16 am GMT
<<Once language reaches the point where it's 'native' speakers are more fluent in another language, it will never recover. It's fall can be slow, but will fall.>>

Apparently, dead languages can be revived -- Hebrew and Sanskrit, for example. I guess this means there's hope yet for Etruscan and Proto-IE.
furrykef   Sat Sep 22, 2007 7:56 am GMT
No, because we have only a very limited idea of what Etruscan and Proto-IE were like. Only one book written in Etruscan survives today, and there are NO texts of any kind in Proto-IE or any language close to it, and we will never find any, either, because writing hadn't been invented yet (or at least not in that region).

- Kef
Mallorquí.   Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:34 am GMT
Un autre cas de langue remise partiellement en usage est celui du cornique, en Cornouaille. Éteint dans la premìere moitié du XIXème siècle, il y a de nos jours plusieurs centaines de personnes qui le parlen couramment. Je me demande si des opérations pareilles ont des lendemains.

Dans Internet, vous pouvez trover un forum consacré a la langue gothique. Cette langue germanique, éteinte en Crimée au XV siècle, a été remise en usage par un goupe de persones qui y communiquent normalement. Il va sans dire qu'aucune de ces personnes ne songe à réintroduire le gothique comme langue familiale, d'usage courant.

Il paraîtrait que le seul cas de "remise en usage" réussie est celui de l'hébreu. Pour le sanscrit, c'est différent.

En tout cas, quand une langue est en danger d'extinction parmi la population qui la parle, si à ce problème on ajoute une forte immigration de gens qui, comme c'est logique, choisissent comme langue de communication générale la langue prédominante, celle, justement, qui est en concurrence avec la langue menacée, la situation de cette langue devient critique. La première réaction des immigrés est de dire: "Pourquoi devrais-je apprendre une langue qui ne me sert à rien?".

Je connais pas mal de cas de jeunes gens, la plupart des étudiants universitaires à Toulouse, qui revendiquent l'occitant comme langue patrimoniales... mais qui ne savent pas le parler.
Guest   Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:32 pm GMT
It looks like a group or enthusuasts is trying to revive "Indo-European".

I guess it's called "Modern Indo-European". Of course, it's hard to tell how close this "Modern IE" is to the real McCoy, which was presumably a moving (evolving) target, anyway. Also, I don't suppose anyone will be learning this as their native language anytine soon.
European   Mon Sep 24, 2007 8:24 am GMT
It can be observed that the language (as well as the religion) of a population can be changed by political pressure. So it should be perfectly feasible to introduce Proto-IE or any other language as a first language to any population anywhere - there only has to be some political will and power to do so, and a lot of time (ca. 50 to 100 years).

The method has worked well in South America, where Indio dialects are marginalized, or in South France whith the langue d'Oc, in Bretagne, in Belgian Brussels, Spanish Galicia, US-Louisiana etc. Orwellian slogans have to be used like "c'est chic de parler francais" and the speakers of the new language have to be consequently priviledged and the non-speakers to be socially disadvantaged.
furrykef   Mon Sep 24, 2007 8:54 am GMT
<< It can be observed that the language (as well as the religion) of a population can be changed by political pressure. So it should be perfectly feasible to introduce Proto-IE or any other language as a first language to any population anywhere >>

I'm afraid you're not paying attention. We can't introduce Proto-IE to any population because we can only speculate on what it was like. Any language we could introduce would be fundamentally different from the actual Proto-IE language. There are no records of it. The only way Proto-IE can be known at all is through its descendants.

- Kef
Vytenis   Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:19 pm GMT
An "endangered" language may survive for a long time as a spoken version olny. That is, the people may use it only at home or only in some situations, for example the old Kuronian languae survived only when used by fishermen while fishing, while at home they used Lithuanian or Latvian. It need not disappear for centuries even though it may not be used in any official setting and be solely a spoken or "low" language. This may be true for both separate languages or dialects. After all, numerous Chinese "dialects", American Ebonics dialects or "Schwiezer Diutsch" are all alive and kicking even though they are used primarily as spoken versions and have no official status whatsoever. On the other hand, Belarussian ad Irish are both "official" on paper, but in fact they are not used ad becoming endangered in the long run...
Vytenis   Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:32 pm GMT
The other observation that came to my mind is that any language is NOT endangered only for as long as it is used by a particular community. As long as this community is being sufficiantly isolated (no matter: geografically, culturally, nationalistically or otherwise), it is still enough to ensure the continued language usage in the community and prevent the youth from switching to the more "cool", more perspective or more powerful languages that are spoken around. However, with the current rate of globalization and change it is likely that more and more languages (even the "big" ones) will become endangered as more and more youths will become more cosmopolitan, geographically dispersed and globally-minded. They will start increasingly swithing to English first as their second language and later increasingly as their first language, especially those who are geographically dispersed or inter-marry. So the danger is that one day all of the languages will become endangered and displaced by English. Of course, this may take longer for such languages as Chinese, Russian, Spanish and the like, but the trend is definitely there.
suomalainen   Thu Sep 27, 2007 7:04 am GMT
Livonian (a Finno-Ugric language from the Balto-Finnic subgroup) has two native fluent speakers left, but it is spoken by about 30 enthusiasts in Latvia (and Estonia and Finland). I have learnt the language on my own and spoken some Livonian every day to my children during last 16 years. They understand it almost perfectly, but prefer to answer in Finnish. Today my son, age 16, asked if I´m sad as he hasn´t planned to speak Livonian to his children. I meant it is up to him but I have anyway thought that my experiment with Livonian hasn´t harmed anybody. Now we have a secret language that I can use if I want that no one else should understand what I say to my child.
European   Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:52 am GMT
Perhaps it is also worthy to put any energy and work into comprehensive and extensive documentation of endangered languages. Modern globalized life reduces the diversity of languages, but also brings cheap means of archival documentation. Also, learning a local dialect at school as a third language should be standard.
Vytenis   Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:08 pm GMT
'secret language' sounds like a good idea. This may be one of the ways to revive the endangered or extinct languages. After all, there are so many people out there who want to be in on a secret... ;)
Guest   Thu Sep 27, 2007 12:11 pm GMT
I heard that the US Army used the navajo language during the II World War to keep their messages secret. There is a movie about this I think.