October 20, 2009

Endangered languages that link to other worldviews to be preserved , as is especially worthy for Native American languages on the brink. I've linked to one of these native speaker/thinkers before, because from Moonhawk's perspective, so much remains to be learned, appreciated and preserved.
  • I love this, because it's personally relevant. One of the many things keeping me away from MoFi has been studying Maori language, which was, back in the colonialist days of yore, considered a "dead" language. Anthropologists scrambled to record the elders speaking their native tongue to preserve the language for posterity. In the 1940s through roughly to the '70s, Maori language was almost lost as parents were encouraged to have their children speak English only, because Maori wouldn't help them integrate into society. It's only now that the lost generation (as some call themselves) are starting to recover an almost-lost language. Ngai Tahu (the local tribe where I live) have a goal of 1,000 households speaking Maori by 2015. I think they'll do it. The thing that bothers me about your first link, Dan, is that they write about preservation, which implies to me that they expect it to die out. They do mention revitalisation, though.
  • Hooray for trac! Revitalization for those cultures with a "viable population" is the best thing. Language is as alive as its speakers. Unfortunately, a certain number of speakers is required to keep a language going, so study, recording and preservation are extremely important, too. On the one hand, small populations speaking a native language can keep their culture and traditions proudly alive and avoid being 'lost' within a larger culture, however, without integration into the larger culture and a common language, there's no way to avoid marginalization. It's a Catch 22. Darwinian evolution applies to languages and cultures, too.
  • Hereabouts, the native language is a dialect of Coast Salish, which is one of the Salishan languages. Due to the on-going effects the colonial residential schools, which punished native students for using their own language, most aboriginal languages are either endangered or extinct. Efforts are being made to preserve the language(s) but the bewildering number of dialects make it difficult. Further up the the coast in Haida Gwaii and southeastern Alaska, the distinct Haida language is also struggling for survival. Perhaps contemporary Haida and Coast Salish art, said by some to have similarities with Maori art, can also help to preserve the culture if not the language.
  • In NZ we have a variety of Maori regional dialects, and the best way that people have found to deal with this is to teach one dialect as a generalised learned language, but teach the local dialect as well. I'm learning the generic Maori (which is Tainui) but live in the Ngai Tahu region so I'm also learning Ngai Tahu vocab to teach in the classroom. The other thing is that learners of Maori aren't expected to be Maori. We're kind of fortunate in that Maori culture and language has become integrated, to a point, into general NZ culture so most kiwis know *some* basic phrases. If there was a cultural shift in areas where Native American languages are being revived, then the language may be preserved by non-Native learners. It can be difficult for the few remaining speakers to let their language go into the non-tribal realm, but at least it's being saved by *someone*.
  • islander, I've noticed the overlap in arts too. I think much of it is to do with available materials, but the naturalistic traditions (Maori have gods for all elements of nature), but the stylisation is similar too, which is interesting.
  • And that sentence makes no grammatical sense.
  • Here's an old timey Siouan Omaha-Ponca lexicon with many subtle shades of meaning, including this fine statement about the proper attitude for a rich man of power .
  • Sad news, but I'm glad to hear her recording.
  • . Sad, yes. I can't imagine what it would be like to be the last person remaining of your culture. Dan, did that sound like singing to you? Seems like there was repetition in some of the phrases.
  • That's what I thought too, Bluehorse.