Nearly Lost

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Tue May 31 16:40:33 UTC 2005

Bid to save nearly-lost language
Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
BBC News

It is spoken by only a handful of people but, after 5,000 years, a rare
native American language is to get its own dictionary.

Some 300 people, descendants of a Native American people in west Canada,
still speak Nuuchahnulth.

But almost no young people in the community on Vancouver Island know the
ancient language.

The professor behind the dictionary project hopes the text will help the
language survive by aiding teachers.

Long words

The dictionary, which has 7,500 entries, is the fruit of 15 years of
research into the language.

It is based on both work with current speakers and notes from linguist
Edward Sapir, taken almost a century ago.

puqee-oh - Always-absent woman
hina?aluk - I look out for what I know is to happen
Simaacyin?ahinnaanuhsim?aki - their whaling spears were poised in the
haasulapi-ck'in?i - sing a little louder

"Less than 10% of the traditional population now speaks the Nuuchahnulth
language," Dr John Stonham of Newcastle University told the BBC News

He said linguists found the language fascinating because of its

"Entire sentences can be built up into a single word," Dr Stonham said.

"But there are also some concepts that can be encapsulated in a single
syllable. A single sound describes the state of remaining in seclusion
when the husband goes out to hunt, for example."

Dr Stonham hopes providing a dictionary of words will encourage teachers
to use the language in the classroom and that older people too will be
spurred into passing their language on to the next generation.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/05/26 19:23:58 GMT

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