Keeping The Native Nipmuc Language Alive

Francis Hult francis.hult at
Thu Apr 16 15:10:18 UTC 2009



Keeping The Native Nipmuc Language Alive


Some scholars estimate that at the time of Columbus, there were roughly 300 native languages spoken in North America. Many of them are now extinct. But David White, an electrician in the small town of Brimfield, Mass., is on a mission - to save his native language, Nipmuc, from dying. 


On busy days, his van doubles as an office. After placing an order for some parts, he travels to a modest, one-story home near Brimfield, where he installs some light switches. 


But he's finding it challenging to explain what he's doing in Nipmuc: "I don't think there's any word for switch, or electricity for that matter. Maybe you could say ... "lightning" would be electricity, and lightning is ptoquahin," White says. "Caged lightning, I guess. I don't know how you'd say lightning in a cage, but I guess that's how you'd describe it."


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