Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back from CamLing

I'm just back from a linguistics conference in Cambridge, CamLing 2007, where I presented a talk on number borrowing in Berber. If you missed it, you can view the slides at my homepage.

The conference was interesting, and I won't go into too much detail on it, but one thing I was surprised and saddened to learn (from Mary Ochoa) was that Yucatec Maya, one of the largest Maya languages, is extremely threatened. It has nearly a million speakers, but, except in the remotest villages, practically all Yucatec children are being spoken to exclusively in Spanish by their parents. Some parents even tell their children not to speak Yucatec or they'll punish them. Like Navajo, another Native American language that was flourishing until lately, it seems to be headed for a massive, rapid decline over the next fifty years.

7 comments:

John Cowan said...

Ouch. Talk about internalized oppression.

Language said...

Good lord, that's depressing.

sanaa said...

I have a question about the text by Ibn Quraysh on "semitic". Do you know if there is an edition of the whole text in Arabic characters? Thanks!

Lameen Souag said...

Funny you should ask - I had just decided to put up a transcription of the introduction that I did last year. Unfortunately, as far as I know there is no edition of the whole text in Arabic characters. Incidentally, how did you get interested in Ibn Quraysh?

sanaa said...

Thanks for your answer.
I am working on the history of European Orientalism, and am interested in how the study of "Oriental" languages (that meant Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, etc.) was in the 16th and 17th c. indebted to the work of Arabized Jews from Spain. In particular, I suspect that the fact the unity of what would later be called the Semitic languages (which was accepted in Europe long before the unity of Indo-Euroepan languages) was borrowed from them. That's how Ibn Quraysh enters the picture.

Lameen Souag said...

Sounds interesting - I think I first read that idea in The Loom of Language. But it wasn't just Arabized Jews, although they first got the ball rolling - Ibn Hazm did a pretty good job too...

sanaa said...

Thanks for the tip. But I don't believe that Ibn Hazm's work on languages was known in Europe at that time.
Great blog by the way.