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Near-extinct languages - Advise?

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Leopejo
Bilingual Triglot
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Italy
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 Message 9 of 27
12 November 2008 at 7:44am | IP Logged 
You can also choose among the Rhaeto-Romance languages (for example Ladin) or a variety of Occitan, for some Indo-European languages.
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Alkeides
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Bhutan
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 Message 10 of 27
12 November 2008 at 8:07am | IP Logged 
Or even Latin. It's not quite dead yet, but it's primarily literary. There is a sizeable revival effort though.
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maya_star17
Bilingual Tetraglot
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Canada
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 Message 11 of 27
12 November 2008 at 9:24am | IP Logged 
amphises wrote:
Or even Latin. It's not quite dead yet, but it's primarily literary. There is a sizeable revival effort though.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a language considered dead when there are no native speakers left? I believe that would make Latin quite dead.

Again, though, I could be wrong.
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Iversen
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Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 12 of 27
12 November 2008 at 9:30am | IP Logged 
Maybe we should divide these languages into some groups to clarify matters:

1) the languages that have disappeared already. Well, most of the languages of this planet have ended up here, or at least they have developed into something quite different before anybody got the idea of describing them. Occasionally we have just enough material to tell us that there once was a language, but not enough to tell us what it was like - e.g.Etrurian (the emperor Claudius may have been the last person that could have written such an account). Forget about them or become a dusty scholar.

2) the stonedead languages: Hittite, Ancient Egyptian and things like that. Here you can find some scholarly books and articles, but no one to talk to and no use for them outside the museums and a few specialized institutes. Personally I find it amazing that some people can read Egyptian hieroglyphs right off a temple wall. I would be even more amazed if anybody could actually talk the language.

3) the undead languages: Latin and Old Greek are the perfect examples from this group - in principle they are extinct, but there are so many people who are interested in learning them and so much original (sometimes even new) material available that you can choose to learn them as if they still were living languages. You may not find many people to speak to, but you will have the same problem with most living languages - so just go ahead. Maybe Cornish will also move into this category, thanks to the Elvenlord and his Elven.

4) the dying languages: Oh, lots. In fact most of the 'small' languages of the planet are heading this way, - for example the extreme minority languages of the Siberian nomads are in this category as they are rapidly being replaced by Russian. Good luck if you want to study them, - it won't be easy as most of these populations aren't exactly profilic writers on the internet. You probably have to settle for a couple of years in Siberia to learn them (while they still are there, -hurry up!), but don't expect a medal when you returns.

5) the dying languages who refuse to die: There are active groups that keep some of the dying languages and dialects alive. From Europe I would mention the Occitan and maybe also the Romansh languages and the so called 'dialect' Low German, which clearly was a language in its own right in the 1500's (before Luther). As the definition suggests there are active groups that defend these languages, and this means that you probably can get enough material to learn them.   

6) the 'small' languages. There is no reason to believe that Basque or Khosa or Faroese or Welsh is going to disappear in the near future, but you may be the only only one in your town (or even country) to know one of them. Even if you can find find material to learn these languages you will have to search hard for opportunities to use them outside the places where they are spoken. In principle you could just as well have chosen a dead langue.

7) the marginalized languages: there are actually languages in India and Africa with millions of speakers that are almost unknown in the rest of the world. It may be difficult to find good text books and other materials, but if you went to the right place you wouldn't have problems finding native speakers galore. Instead your problem would be to stop them from practicing their English on you.

8) the artificial languages. Esperanto is in a class of its own because it has a wealth of material and a lot of very experienced second-language speakers - so you can learn it just like another language (just faster). Klingon also has its supporters, but apart from that there isn't much reason to learn an artifical language. It may be more fun to make one, but don't expect to become doktoro Zamenhof no. 2 - it won't happen.


Edited by Iversen on 12 November 2008 at 9:34am

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Alkeides
Senior Member
Bhutan
Joined 4415 days ago

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 Message 13 of 27
12 November 2008 at 9:53am | IP Logged 
maya_star17 wrote:
amphises wrote:
Or even Latin. It's not quite dead yet, but it's primarily literary. There is a sizeable revival effort though.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a language considered dead when there are no native speakers left? I believe that would make Latin quite dead.

Again, though, I could be wrong.
Following Iversen's post summarizing various degrees of language death, I just want to add that Latin while possibly lacking native speakers, still has a number of fluent second language speakers with a wide range of accents. Look over here; most of the instructors there use the Italian pronunciation but a few are still capable of using the Restored Classical Pronunciation.
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TheElvenLord
Diglot
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United Kingdom
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Studies: Portuguese, Mandarin

 
 Message 14 of 27
12 November 2008 at 10:22am | IP Logged 
Hi Zerothinking

I have also sent a PM to you.

Cornish is a good gateway into Welsh and Breton. You could say it's situated more or less in the middle of the languages. It shares a huge amount of vocab with Welsh, and a significant amount of grammar with both. It is a decent gateway into the Godeilic languages aswell (also Celtic).

Here are a few links to some learning resources. A few others are posted in the PM

Kernewek Dre Lyther (Cornish by mail) -

I see this as the "Assimil" of the Cornish language. It is dialogues, progressing in level, that serve as a great memorization source for the "Memorize texts, learn a language" method. It doesn't give a translation like Assimil but gives you a word list.
Personally, I use the KDL course as I would Assimil. And it is very effective. Many great Cornish speakers learnt with this. It goes from complete beginner to an very high level. You can use this with a tutor (£10 fee) or without it. (It is called "by mail" because before the internet, each lesson was sent out by post, which you would then do, and sent to questions back to the tutor, who would mark them, and send them back to you (along with the next lesson) with some hints/tips)

Skeul an Yeth (The language ladder) -

This is a very comprehensive series, and will take you to a high level with a very large vocabulary and all the grammar you could want. This follows a traditional textbook approach (except without the millions of tests and exercises). Ask me if you want more information.

Class -

You may be lucky and be very close to some Cornish speakers in Australia, who provide classes there. If so, these are high quality, but slow. I would reccommend going to one though.


TEL
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Chung
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 Message 15 of 27
12 November 2008 at 11:23am | IP Logged 
A big obstacle with trying to learn the "small" Uralic (i.e. Finno-Ugric + Samoyedic = Uralic) languages is that there's very little learning material in English for those languages. What is there in English comes from the old Uralic and Altaic series from Indiana University and is often scandalously overpriced now as a reprint from Routledge.

If you do want to learn these "small" Uralic languages, you may need to learn Russian to an advanced level before even starting to tackle one of those Uralic languages. That is because many resources in Uralic languages other than Estonian, Finnish or Hungarian are designed for Russian-speakers with relatively few created for native speakers of other languages (including Finnish or Hungarian). In the case of Lappish (Saami), you may find a Lappish textbook for Finnish speakers, but I'd be surprised if you could find a useful textbook of Nganasan, for example, in any language other than Russian. Iversen's suggestion of immersion in Siberia or northern Russia could work, but it's a tough life otherwise in those parts of the world. Have you considered doing academic study of these Uralic languages? A few universities offer degrees in Uralic or Finno-Ugric studies with the possibility to do field work.
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 16 of 27
12 November 2008 at 12:07pm | IP Logged 
amphises wrote:
... I just want to add that Latin while possibly lacking native speakers, still has a number of fluent second language speakers with a wide range of accents. Look over here; most of the instructors there use the Italian pronunciation but a few are still capable of using the Restored Classical Pronunciation.


I know that there are some people who can actually speak Latin fluently as a non-native language, and I certainly like to get there myself. But even within the Roman Catholic church I suspect that these are only a minority compared to those that can read the language without problems (maybe even in a way that sounds authentic), but haven't thought of speaking to each others in that language. Maybe those who live closer to catholic priests and monks/nuns know more about this.

Anyway Latin can't be classified as a threatened language in its present state, - Vepsian or Ainu or Lower Engadin would probably come closer to fulfilling Zerothinking's wish for a truly doomed language.



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