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Submitted on
November 21, 2012
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They say that every fourteen days, a language dies. The statistic isn't alarming, after all there are supposedly seven thousand languages in the world. That a language dies every two weeks, is just a statistic. The concern comes with the knowledge that a language dies because it has been forgotten. Thus it dies without recognition, without farewell and without acknowledgment. It was merely there before, a communication bridge once upon a literary dream - now a nothing. This fascinating tool that we use to interact with our fellow human beings is lost. And we don't care. The Eskimos, they say, had a hundred words for snow.

That favourite pair of shoes that you love all the holes and splits into because they are so perfect and fit you so well - gets a better send off than a language. That coat that's become too small or too big, or too much last years fashion and too little of this years craze gets more of a farewell than a language. The things that break, stop working or are just no longer needed are at least acknowledged in their passing. When a language dies, nobody realises it. We like to pretend that we are overloaded with words. The Egyptians, they say, had fifty words for sand.

A language dies every fourteen days. It dies alone. It dies inside the last person alive to speak that language, to sing the songs that only they know, the words that only they can understand. If we stop remembering the things that have happened, is it because they never were? Or is it because we never really knew?
I was trying to work with the age old saying that 'The Eskimos had 100 words for snow' and such and such. But it didn't flow properly. Then I stumbled across the National Geographic Article Enduring Voices and the lengths the project is going to, to try and highlight the language hotspots across the world where words are fast dying out, soon to be lost. If you're interested the hotspot map can be found here: [link]
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”
~John Greenleaf Whittier
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:icontomos2013:
Tomos2013 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014
I really want to learn Ainu and Okinawan. I don't know how I can really immerse myself in them though.
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:iconhoremweb:
HoremWeb Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You may be surprised (or not) that Egyptians even had a word for snow. sA-r-q-w (possible forms are "salq" or "sarqu" where vowels are falling into "educated guess" category) is described as a rather unpleasant white thing in the mountains of Syria. But even I personally saw snow in Egypt (near Mt. St. Catherine, Sinai, over 2000 meters), though it was gone with the first rays of the sun. 

I would disagree to compare a language to a favourite shoe or dress. It is rather like the wedding dress of grand-grand-grandmother. Once it was fabulous and everybody admired it, later it was a revered old thing (mathom—said Tolkien), than a piece of old fabric for the next generation. And later it was forgotten, perhaps find a place to the attic or the cat had it to get a comfy bed. And then disappeared, but for that time grand-grand-grandma was a scarcely remembered old lady whom grandma had hazy and creepy story of sipping her tea so frighteningly loud and mumbled with teethless mouth some creepy words about being old... and faded. Later even Grandmother has faded and for the youngs' memories she's a tiny, bent old lady with strange tales and a curious look when spotted the bedding of the cat. This is how a language fades and dies. 

Perhaps Egyptians had known fifty type of rock fragmentation, differing by grain size and shapes, etc, that we call collectively "sand". I don't even dare to guess about the frozen things of the Eskimos... :D

Once I saw a list by Wikimedia Foundation I think, that listed the most important titles that are existing in English Wikipedia and haven't got Hungarian counterparts. I was surprised to see "boat" among them. What English calls "boat" is at least four different wessels in Hungarian, with no direct translation. English language uses words sparingly, comparing to others. :D


But you're basicly right and you have it beautifully written. Did you consider that we are less than 270 years apart from loosing all our languages? ;) :)
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:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow thank you for the information! Not surprised, there needs to be words for everything regardless of whether they actually ever see it _ which now they have! :D

Thanks for your kind words too! Scary that we are 270 years apart from loosing all our languages....it can't happen...can it? :B
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:iconhoremweb:
HoremWeb Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Loosing all languages—well, I don't think so, but perhaps loosing all now-existing languages. I don't know about any statistics how many languages are invented or formed within a century. But artifical languages like ido, volaspük, or even sindarin or quenya are popping into existence all the time, and some of them even find a way to speakers of them. I learnt some esperanto in the 90s and then there were children who had esperanto as their primary mother tongue (because their parents were from different cultures and esperanto was the mediating language). Therefore I think that we will talk to each other by languages even 271 years in time. But there will be other languages and perhaps there will need dictionaries like British–American and people will earn their living by translating Australian to Euro-English (that is often hard to understand for a British or especially Midland-American English speakers... :D )

Csángós are Hungarian speaking ethnic communities in East Romania and in Moldavia, who speak an isolated, ancient form of Hungarian. It is very hard for us to understand them, it is liike talking with someone coming from 200 years ago. Or as Switzerdütsch for German speakers—I was told that Swiss German speakers understood those medieval German texts that contemporary Germans can't. 
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:iconjadedgothbutterfly:
JadedGothButterfly Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Knowledge so profound, beautifully written.
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:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you :)
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:iconmitsukitinky:
MitsukiTinky Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist
I was lucky to be friends with a linguist, who helped turn a dialect that was only a word-of-mouth kind of language and had no alphabet or any way to write it, into a dictionary, and then taught them how to write their own language and they started producing books for themselves. It was so beautiful! I helped edit the not dialect part of the dictionary, so I had a full insight into it.
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:iconkaz-d:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
That's so nice!
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:iconmitsukitinky:
MitsukiTinky Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist
You just made think that languages can still be rescued and stop their death or at least make them survive for a while longer. It's still sad to find languages dying or to see people using less and less of the words from a language because now they use just one for everything.
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:iconmanouilidis:
Manouilidis Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2013  Professional General Artist
I love the way you wrote. It is sad to see language die cause it gets forgotten. Sometimes I wonder if we might end up in the far away future with just one language for the entire world. This is really well written. I enjoyed reading it, makes me ponder a little. Thank you for sharing.
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