Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Alex's tiny mind is blown by linguistics!

This'll be two days on the bounce posting articles I found on the Guardian's website, but oh... holy hell I love this one so much.

Peter K Austin's Top 10 Endangered Languages

That's just heart-breaking that these languages are virtually dead, with almost no hope of revival. But just learning that they exist makes the whole world seem that much bigger and more wonderful. Seriously:

Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round)

Holy freaking crap! That's amazing! And if anything this is the biggest kick up the ass to learn Japanese I've had yet. If I don't hurry up and make some progress cracking the language of the country where I live, how will I ever get around to mastering a language where you have to click your tongue, or one of those ones where tones are connected to meaning?

It's interesting to see Ainu in there too. The Ainu people are indigenous to Japan, and especially Hokkaido where there are some small communities. Apparently the Ainu people have been recognised by the Japanese government at last, which is no small thing, so with any luck their tongue won't be endagered for long.

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