On The Brink Of Extinction: Nearly Dead Languages And The Dedicated Linguists Bringing Them Back To Life
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Thousands of kilometres apart, and in incredibly different cultures; three linguists are doing their part to save the culture of their people through language.
Masahiro Yamada and Natsuko Nakagawa in Japan and Kenny Pheasant in the United States are all passionate about ensuring almost lost languages are preserved and continue to be taught; and a lot of it comes down to teaching the languages to children.
Linguists Work To Preserve Ryukyu Dialects Now Dying Out
Professors at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics made an alarming discovery when they found that many dialects in the Okinawa Prefecture are on the verge of dying out.
Associate professor of linguistics, Masahiro Yamada began research in 2010 and found that the elders on the island of Okininawa found it difficult to maintain their dialects and convey them to younger generations.
“Yamada was awed by a local proverb that states: “Forgetting language leads to forgetting the island. Forgetting the island leads to forgetting our parents.””
So, Yamada chucked a Helen Lovejoy and thought of the children. Together with his team and the islanders of Okinawa, Yamada has created a children’s picture book that tells stories and folk tales from the islands, using the dialects that are in need of recovery. The book will be available in July of this year.
Local Man Breathes Life Into Language
In Manistee County in the United States, one man is doing all he can to preserve his native language and help it to continue on for centuries to come.
Kenny Pheasant of the Anishinaabe people teaches Anishinaabemowin, his native language through series of videos on Facebook and even runs a yearly language camp for those interested in learning and preserving the dying language.
Pheasant is so invested in keeping Anishinaabemowin alive that he has created certain words to adapt to the 21st century. Words like television didn’t exist because TV wasn’t a part of the Anishinaabe culture.
Much like Yamada in the previous article, Pheasant believes in teaching the younger generations to help preserve the language and culture, “If you want to save the language, teach the kids.”
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