April 18, 2011 § 3 Comments
‘Segovia and Velazquez, elderly keepers of a dying language, have declared it already dead, because, getting to the essence of being human, they don’t have anything they want to say to one another’.
So writes Jenni Diski on the LRB blog about the furore over the last two speakers of Ayapaneco, an indigenous Mexican language, who refuse to speak to each other. She is right. The fact that no one wants to speak Ayapaneco means that it is no longer a living language. I can fully understand why linguists would want to collect as much information as possible about Ayapaneco and to try to preserve a memory of it as best they can. But the argument for language preservation goes far beyond the desire academically to expand knowledge about languages, including dying ones. It suggests that there is a moral good in maintaining and preserving languages even when no one wishes to speak them. « Read the rest of this entry »