Monday, November 10, 2008

Endangered Languages

Last weekend Amber and I had the privilege of spending time with one of the rare remaining speakers of Nyangi. It was said that this speaker, an old man named Lokoli Isaac, is one of three surviving elders who know the ‘real’ Nyangi. Nyangi is important to me because it was the same language as Ik, probably a century ago. At some point a group of the Ik relocated from their current mountain home to another small mountain range several days’ walk westward. Over the years, the Dodotho (Karamojong), Toposa, and Mening peoples filled in the gap between the two Ik groups. The Nyangi slowly assimilated linguistically to their diverse neighbors. The language today is a mixture of Ik, Dodoth, Mening, Didinga, and Acholi…and who knows what else.

I’m interested in getting a record of Nyangi for a several reasons. First, it is part of a holistic attempt to truly know the Ik people in such a way that when I help translate the NT into Ik, I have as much background knowledge of their language as possible. Second, it’s part of SIL’s core values to make our findings available to the world at large. Since I have the privileged position of being on the ground in Karamoja, where I can access the Nyangi, I want to gather and share all that I find with anyone who’s interested. Third, interest in a people’s language usually generates a measure of prestige and cultural pride (the good kind), such that loving the Nyangi language somehow translates into loving the Nyangi people. Fourth, when a language—a way of expressing the world—dies out, it is simply a loss to humankind. There are many similarities between biological diversity and linguistic diversity. When an animal, bird, fish, or insect becomes extinct, we should be grieved because a unique species that God created has vanished forever. Likewise, when a language goes extinct, a unique species of human culture vanishes forever. These extinctions are, of course, inevitable, but I consider it a worthwhile cause to slow their happening. And fifth, I like to explore the country with my lovely sidekick, Amber!

To reach the Nyangia, we drove about three hours west, the last thirty minutes of which were down a ‘road’ half the width of our vehicle. We reached Lobalangit, the ‘urban’ center of the Nyangi. Having got advanced notice, they were ready for us, and we were able to start almost right away. In about an hour’s time, we recorded 150 Nyangi words and one Nyangi story on video and audio. The video is just to have a record of a Nyangi speaker speaking Nyangi. The audio I have transcribed, and the transcriptions can be used by historical linguists to compare with other languages. This helps them know which language are, or might be, related ‘genetically’, allowing them to piece together better pictures of African history. I couldn’t recognize most of the Nyangi words, but some of them were clearly from Ik. And the ones that are from Ik have changed from Ik in systematic ways. For example, the Ik word ats’esa meaning ‘to eat’ has become hajetha in Nyangi. So we can hypothesize that /a/ in Ik changes regularly to /ha/ in Nyangi, as does /ts’/ to /j/ and /s/ to /th/. We can expect to find these same sound changes in other words, and in fact, we have.

On the way back from Lobalangit to Kaabong we had a couple adventures, such as when a well-dressed, distinguished-looking drunk man tried to force his way into our truck, and when 5,000-10,000 cattle occupied the road that we were trying to drive on.


Kathryn said...

Oh, how exciting to be a part of preserving dying language! Also, love the linguistic should include more of those in the blog!

Much love and prayers,

Zeinelabidin Elhassi said...

The solution is through Ardano language.
Yes we can gather ourselves to help endangered languages.
And I can explain.

The number of dying languages in the coming two centuries scares me a lot. It's like losing the icebergs in the poles because of global warming Nobody wants to watch losing our nature or its diversity.
The same thing we can see in Ardano. Any Ardanist will be very close to all the languages in the world as one group ,because Ardano contains words from all languages. Losing even hundreds from thousands is very scary to anyone who loves languages.
Ardano wants a stable number of living languages , we hope that all the 6912 living languages are protected . This number was the choice of Ardano from the beginning.

Ardano is the language that uses documented words from all languages , therefor even after the language extinction Ardano speakers will still speak those words , At least ,with Ardano the momory of endangered languages will never die.

We don't need just to document endangered languages ,but also to keep their communities within the circle of their language. We should give them an easy international language to communicate with the foreign world ,while this communicating language and its community keep both eyes on the status of that small language .

Ardano is like a simple indicator for what is happening to the world's languages. The only thing that I could do as a person is to keep the memory of those languages at least in the dictionary or the wonderful Ardano poems and eventually in the hearts of Ardanists. We want to do more in protecting endangered languages ,but unfortunately we don't have a big community like some very old conlangs.

What is interesting in Ardano community is that it is the nearest conlang community to the problem of endangered languages. In addition the person who chose Ardano is a person who have no objection about the presence of small languages in the world language, Therefore he or she is more likely to protect those languages. . This could make any Ardano community more active and effective linguistically than any other conlang community

Ardano will put the problem of losing the natural languages under the spotlight . Increasing the support for Ardano will increase the interested people in protecting the weak languages.

Of course a helpful conlang community which is in constant touch with all languages in the world is by far much better for the cultural and the linguistic world.

Ardano is not just the participation of words from small languages.

Not just the regularity and easiness of Ardano are important ,although they can help enriching the small languages through the easiness of translations from the world language. But it will be an encouragement for that endangered language community knowing that some words in the world language came from their language. They will feel the global importance of their language. Anyone would be happy after knowing that the whole world is using even few words from his\her language.

Ardano is a meeting place for co-operative people who love languages and who took the first step towards protecting small languages ,by supporting a worldlang that recognize the presence and the rights of all languages . This gathering of people will make them even stronger and more effective in the participation of endangered languages protection. Ardano has words from all languages ,and any language facing the danger of extinction will turn on the alarm in the Ardano community .

Using a world language with words from all around the world will give a chance for many people to build personal contacts with those natural languages. Personally before Ardano I was hearing about the problem of endangered languages and I wished to help ,but I was not motivated like I am now. Because now I speak words from those languages. The problem of endangered languages touched me more deeper. The words are beautiful just like my mother tongue. Many people would love more languages if they used words from them in everyday life. Many people if they loved other languages would help protecting them. We need to create a conlang community that not just loves the conlang and ignores the others, but we need a community that really loves all natural languages in the world. At least this will be the right beginning.

Those big conlangs community officials find themselves talking with emptiness about the linguistic diversity. They say we protect diversity . If there is diversity in their languages then where is my language. I can't find a word from my language and thousands of other languages. Simply they ignored them. There is no need to claim that the auxlang can help linguistic diversity since it lacks the real diversity in the first place.

Also, Ardano will give speakers of any bigger language the needed contentedness and relief after knowing that their language is respected and has its role in the global communications . Their language has its portion in Ardano ,and this is like sending a simple message that says they can live peacefully together with different people of the world just like the harmony between different words from different language origins in Ardano . They will feel that the world is based on a relation between equals. I can insure that any feeling about discrimination at least linguistically will simply vanish after the use of Ardano

To succeed in convincing the world , the whole world , to use what this movement talked about for more than a century then we need to use something closer to the people , I mean all people. Every person should be happy with the world language ,because he\she is a part of this world . It's our world .

In the world cup of any game . All nations play in the qualifiers. Even the most powerful nation in soccer , Brazil , still plays in the qualifications along with very small nations ,because it's the world cup ,not the cup of powerful nations.
The UN contains USA and also that very tiny nation. Yes USA has more power in the UN ,and also the powerful languages have an advantage in Ardano ,but without forgetting every single language. That is what we should fight for.

I was lucky because I have found this giant library in front of me, the Internet, I was able to create Ardano ,which was in the past an impossible dream . Now we are in the era of globalization ,and we need to take steps to improve with it. We need to change this movement toward the final direction directly towards the goal of so many generations of auxlangers.

Ardano besides helping endangered languages , has another big task which is to introduce the fairest and the most neutral a posteriori system in every era ,and this is for better facilitated communications which will help the world in many things including economy ,culture ,and of course protecting the remaining languages.

I haven't talked about Neutrality . I mean the real neutrality. And I haven't talked about the principle of the fair language. Or the students on equal footing in a posteriori system . You cannot put all students in an equal footing in a posteriori system ,but Ardano did. So the group of auxlangers who fought for the a priori systems ,now they can join back the a posteriori auxlangers.

I really need your help to try, Just to try to change the world , but it will not be any change ,because all what the IAL movement talked about in a century, we will add more new things. If you have joined this movement because of the so many advantages of auxlangs , Now with Ardano you need to put more advantages. First of all Ardano changed me ,because of foreigners reactions when I talk about Ardano in front of them. I say look to that world language that doesn't contain your language ,and look to your language Ardano ,and immediately you see the smile ,and not any smile. This happiness is the thing behind Ardano.

It is not just an easy communicating language ,but also it could be the greatest symbol of social justice in everyday life ,if succeeded. And it cannot succeed without your help.

The languages of indigenous people along with all European languages . And also all the African and Asian languages. All languages are side by side ,because Ardano is based on two sentences
The first ("All languages deserve to be the world language("
And the second ("All languages deserve to be learned and spoken("
You cannot achieve these two great principles without thinking about Ardano.

This is the last equity and equality movement. Do you want to participate?

Zeinelabidin Elhassi

links to Ardano