Monday, May 23, 2011

UNUSUAL - Isidro and Manuel, last speakers - scrambled - the ayapaneco

Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, are cold and not on speaking terms. Damage: two Mexicans are the last people in the world to speak ayapaneco. It's a story that bounces on the Web since its publication in the Mexican daily Milenio. It gives us the news ayapaneco, one of 2500 languages in danger of extinction.

Alongside popoluca of Tzotzil or Totonaco the ayapaneco is also one of the 68 languages listed in Mexico by cultural authorities increasingly attentive to the value of intangible assets consisting of the native dialects. But of all the ayapaneco is certainly the worst off: two people speak it and they are all young.

In late February, Milenio hopeful headline: "The ayapaneco be saved." Dispatched to the scene, the specialists of the national project Guardians of tradition in persuading two precious speakers to work in Operation Last Chance, told the newspaper. The two survivors language called Segovia and Manuel Isidro Velazquez, have respectively 75 and 69 years and live a few hundred meters from each other in Jalapa de Mendez, in the state of Tabasco.

A few weeks later the same newspaper, on a more mixed, recounted the harrowing news: the last two speakers of ayapaneco, though neighbors do not address the floor. Because of an old quarrel with the journalist, annoyed, not even able to identify the origin. Too bad. Thus, ayapaneco die not because nobody is able to speak, but because its speakers have nothing to say.

Philosophically speaking, the conclusion is rich with implications. From a linguistic point of view, the reality is somewhat different. Even if Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez had cut bibs, slapping their thighs to break their pipes, it would not change the fate of their mother tongue.

For her to live, they would have to pass it on to future generations what they have not done for reasons too lengthy to explain but which are due to mixing of populations. Lack of younger speakers, the dictionary will ayapaneco. A handful of American linguists have indeed set out to reach the microphone to two old.

Day after day they reap, analyze, classify and record the words, their meanings, their pronunciation, their combinatorics. Work of crazy adventure of a lifetime. The biggest challenge that faced these specialists is not only able to hear their two confidential informants talk all the rain and fine weather.

Is that on such and such a combinatorial meaning, they do not agree and claim each have the correct version. Vertigo: who, or Manuel Isidro, speaks good ayapaneco? And can we say that it still exists if there is no one to decide? Pragmatic, linguists have decided where versions differ, to include both versions in their dictionary.

I know some school teachers that such a solution is likely to make a lasting nightmares. It is as if for eternity, were recorded side by side translations "I go to the dentist" and "I go to the dentist." (Letemps. hp original article)

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