Canada: First Nations' languages becoming extinct

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 16 12:28:14 UTC 2008

First Nations' languages becoming extinct

Updated: Sat. Jun. 14 2008 10:31 PM ET

The unique languages of B.C.'s First Nations communities make up one
of the three most important linguistic regions in the world and are in
danger of becoming instinct, according to a UBC linguistics professor.
First Nations communities in B.C. speak 26 different languages but
they only have about 25 years left to survive, according to UBC
Linguistics Professor Henry Davis. "It's actually quite hard to
eradicate a language ... (but it happens by adopting) the residential
school policy, which Canada adopted," said Davis, who speaks the
Lillooet First Nations language.

Margaret Commodore says she remembers feeling lucky that she didn't
know her own First Nations language. "I was one of the children that
never learned to speak my language so I was never punished for
speaking another language and that was one of the good things," she
said. But Davis says the loss of a cultural language can have
devastating consequences. "The effects of language loss are actually
huge, and they are, they're a deculturation which leads to suicide and
drug abuse and so on," he said. Reviving nearly-lost languages is
extremely difficult, Davis said, and nearly impossible to do without
forced immersion to bring them back.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Dag Sharman
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