Sunday, January 13

whadja say?

An indigenous language in southern Mexico is in danger of disappearing because its last two speakers [men in their 70's] have stopped talking to one another.

The two elderly men in the village of Ayapan, Tabasco, have drifted apart, said Fernando Nava, head of the Mexican Institute for Indigenous Languages: "They are really personal reasons that they don't speak to each other. We don't have to think of a war."

The men are the only fluent speakers of their local version of the "Zoque" language.

According to the UN, one language disappears across the world every two weeks.

And yet there are some guys you just WISH would shut up:


  1. Ha! I had no idea that Larry "Bud" Melman was an attorney!

  2. You said it, Dr. Z! I think it's a glimpse in how the Office of the Vice President works!

    Seriously, the disappearing language thing is troubling. We covered that a bit in my anthro class in college. My teacher, who rocked, actually knew and was friends with the last speaker of a sadly now-extinct Native American tongue who was mentioned in an article we read. He brought in a photo to give us some idea of the real people behind such stats, and also told us a few anecdotes about her, and words from the language. In one case, she had said while he was driving her somewhere, "Oh, look at those people eating." She was talking about cattle grazing in a field. In her language, in her worldview, animals were essentially people and deserving of respect. One of several good sci-fi short stories on language explores the idea, familiar to many linguists and other disciplines, that it's hard to express an idea when you don't have the words for it. As the (supposedly) Chinese saying goes, "The beginnings of wisdom is to call something by its right name." Losing a language is losing another way of looking at things, and that is a tragedy.

    (I wrote a fair amount on the power of language pre-blog, but much of that was on usage and some cultural differences. I'm no expert on such issues when it comes to serious linguistic analysis. But such issues are important to our history, society and diversity of thought, beyond political and cultural analysis. I also think everyone would benefit from taking at least one anthro course if they haven't, because as my prof said, it's "the great nay-saying discipline." It's a good tonic to sweeping generalizations about many aspects of human nature, it encourages humility, and it promotes actually, ya know, studying something as it is.)

  3. This sounds like a deposition I was involved with a number of years ago. The guys were out of control, and when I said "I've told you everything I know" and got up to leave you would have thought I had just cut their weenies off! One of the attorneys literally did start shrieking. It was too funny. I just walked out.

    When the legal case was decided, everyone EXCEPT ME had to pay damages.


  4. How to Make Depositions Fun 101


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