Sunday, March 1, 2009

UN Says Cornish Language Extinct

Yesterday I watched "The Linguists" on PBS. Two young guys travelled to many obscure and difficult to reach places around the world in an attempt to record languages that are spoken by only a few people - some only spoken by quite elderly people, scrambling to phonetically write down the sounds of languages that have never been written, digitally preserving a part of our world for future study. It was a fascinating special - and sad, too. Only think of how much we do NOT know about the past because we cannot decipher the written languages left behind by many ancient peoples - including the Southwest Script I just blogged about and Linear A. We have no idea what the Indus symbols mean, and we cannot make any sense out of the Phaistos Disc. Without the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, we would have no idea what the history of the ancient Egyptians was. As it is, there is still so much we do not know about their history and culture. From 09:27 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009 Cornish language extinct, says UN The Cornish language has been branded "extinct" by linguistic experts, sparking protests from speakers. Thirty linguists worked on Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, compiled by United Nations group Unesco. They also said Manx Gaelic was extinct. Cornish is believed to have died out as a first language in 1777. But the Cornish Language Partnership says the number of speakers has risen in the past 20 years and there should be a section for revitalised languages. The Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, published by Unesco, the cultural section of the United Nations, features about 2,500 dialects. There are thought to be about 300 fluent speakers of Cornish. But Jenefer Lowe, development manager of the Cornish Language Partnership, said there were thousands who had a "smattering" of the language. "Saying Cornish is extinct implies there are no speakers and the language is dead, which it isn't," she said. "Unesco's study doesn't take into account languages which have growing numbers of speakers and in the past 20 years the revival of Cornish has really gathered momentum." Last year the partnership agreed a single written form of Cornish which brought together several different forms of the language. "It is among a group of languages that turned out not to be extinct but merely sleeping" Christopher Moseley, editor-in-chief of the atlas UN declares Manx Gaelic 'extinct' Mrs Lowe said: "There's no category for a language that is revitalised and revived. "What they need to do is add a category. "It should be recognised that languages do revive and it's a fluid state." Christopher Moseley, an Australian linguist and editor-in-chief of the atlas, told BBC News he would consider a new classification. He said: "I have always been optimistic about Cornish and Manx. "There is a groundswell of interest in them, although the number of speakers is small. "Perhaps in the next edition we shall have a 'being revived' category. "[Cornish] is among a group of languages that turned out not to be extinct but merely sleeping."

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