Bid to save nearly-lost language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Jun 12 16:04:29 UTC 2005

>>From BBC News,

Bid to save nearly-lost language

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.

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 bow
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
website. He said linguists found the language fascinating because of its
complexity. "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:

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