Language of the Day: Squamish

Aquamish Image Let’s take a journey…

Mount Garibaldi makes its presence known in the distance as it rises off to touch the clouds and the 335 meter tall Shannon Falls crash into rocks and deep blue waters as its waters makes their decent. If you made your way to the summit of the Stawamus Chief you would see the whole Squamish community below. It is in this picturesque area of British Colombia that we find the speakers of the Squamish language.

The Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) people are an indigenous group that traditionally resided within many areas of British Colombia. Like many groups, their language, traditions and customs have been passed down orally over the years as no formal writing system was established for much of their history. It is this reliance on their language that has led to the recent support on trying to rebuild the language from its nearly extinct standing.

The Squamish people have a rich culture which based on the natural landscape by which they are surrounded. This is demonstrated by their complex set of affinities that connect their social life and cultural events to different families and neighboring nations.

Storytelling is an integral aspect of their history and in 1965 their version of the origin of the world was recorded, “In the beginning water was everywhere and then the tops of the mountains came out of the sea and land was formed. The first man to appear was named X̱i7lánexw. He was given a wife, an ax-like tool, and a salmon trap. X̱i7lánexw and his wife populated the land and the Squamish descend from these ancestors.”

While this language has been on the decline since the European colonization there has been a recent push in order to save the language and the culture of the Squamish people. You can read more about the initiative to save the language here:

Language of the Day: Andaman Creole Hindi

P2230088Let’s take a journey…

The waters of the Bay of Bengal surround this lush archipelago which rests off of the coast of India and Myanmar. There are 325 islands in the grouping and their shores are touches with the white sand of the tropics. The sun never ceases to bathe the land in heat and rains are usually uncommon leading to a dry warm air that is made pleasant by the moisture that coalesces with the wind as it sways across the Bay of Bengal and onto the many islands.

We are in Andaman Islands and it is across this large grouping of islands that we find the speakers of Andaman Creole Hindi. The language is a creolization of Hindustani, Bengali, and Malayalam and originally formed as a trade language as the three groups attempted to communicate with one another.

Throughout the many islands of Andaman Islands there resides around 10,000 speakers of the language and although many are spread out most of the speakers are multilingual; speaking Hindi with outsiders and Andaman Creole Hindi with their families and other locals. This has led the language to be taught to all children and allowing the language to flourish within the current population of speakers.

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Language of the Day: Cornish

Falmouth marine bandLet’s take a journey…

There is a strong damp wind blowing from the west. It’s the breeze that rises from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean’s Celtic Sea and is salty and cold. This breeze shapes the land which comes to a point in the south where the Celtic Sea meets the English Channel. The high waves of these frigid unfriendly waters splash up on high cliffs which stand straight true leading to the spindly and rocky interior.

It is on the high cliffs overlooking the waves that we find the speakers of Cornish. We are in Cornwall which is the southern peninsula of England. Cornish is a Indo-European language and is sister languages of Welsh and Breton which descend from Common Brittonic.

The language was declared extinct for many years but the classification was removed in recent years as there has been a push to grow the language and revive it. It is unknown how many speakers actually exist but with Religious services held in Cornish, Evening classes, correspondence courses, summer camps, children’s play groups, residential courses and even a full time Cornish language nursery school being set up the language is rapidly growing.

It may be many years before there are a strong number of speakers of Cornish but with the language being spread to the youth the language is in the right place and has all the opportunities it needs to become a stable language.

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Language of the Day: Chin, Chinbon

chin-people-myanmarLet’s take a journey…

There is rain falling from the low lying clouds. It falls it torrents and it is warm as it runs along your skin. Mountains spread in all directions but they are covered in dark green trees from valley to crest as they go from India and Bangladesh in the west to China, Loas and Thailand in the East. The Indian Ocean lays to the south past more emerald mountains. In the distance there are some mountains who wear hats of white as they stand above all those other mountains around them. They are giants and they make the others look like hills.

We are in Burma also known as Myanmar and it here in this mountainous country that we find the speakers of Chin, Chinbon. Also known as Chindwin Chin, Chinpon, Oo-pu, Sho, Tuishiip, Tuiship, Uppu, Ütbü; Chin, Chinbon is a language from the family of Sino-Tibetan. It is closely related to Asho Chin which is much larger language.

Chin, Chinbon has around 20,000 speakers and is taught to all the youth with most of its speakers being monolingual. It is a strong language with its speakers being from many different backgrounds as it has spread out across the Burmese mountains. The people who speak the language belong to a group of people called the Kukish which is a large of people who speak a language from the group from which Chin, Chinbon comes from.

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Language of the Day: Trinidadian Creole English

Carnaval-Trinidad-and-Tobago-©-kids.britannica.com_Let’s take a journey…

It’s warm but there is a nice salty breeze blowing. There are the usual signs of the tropics: sun kissed skin, palm trees and sandy beaches are all around; this is a place that you would visit on a vacation. The water is warm and it is that clear light blue that can only be found in the waves of the Caribbean. There is a multitude of islands speckling the waters but we find ourselves focused on two which sit at the precipice of the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Paria.

Our toes are covered in the sand of Trinidad and Tobago and it is here, on these two islands in the Caribbean that we find Trinidadian Creole English. The language is based off of English which was brought over from the colonials during the colonization of the Americas. While there are differences to English, Trinidadian Creole English is very similar to its parent language.

Since it was established the language has flourished becoming the de facto language of national identity for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. With 1,000,000 speakers the language is in safe hands and is a part of the greater continent of English which has spread its reach around the world.

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Language of the Day: Iaai

vilvil_dancingLet’s take a journey…

Like the moon at most times during its cycle the island is in the shape of a crescent. Surrounded by sandy white beaches that drift into the Pacific Ocean this picturesque island is just a small piece of a larger group of islands. The lush green of vegetation covers the ground which stretches for 50 Km in length and 7 Km in width.

We are on Ouvéa Island which is one of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia and it is on this small island that is in overseas territory of France that we find the speakers of Iaai. Coming from the Loyalty Island line of the Austronesian family Iaai is a well-documented language with a number of publications on the linguistic elements of the language.

Ouvéa Island is the home of one other language, Fagauvea which is significantly different than Iaai even though the two languages have been in contact with one another for many years. With around 4000 speakers Iaai is considered a threatened language but with schools now dedicated to teaching the language and other preventative measures in place the language is well on its way to preservation.

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Language of the Day: Goundo

Let’s take a journey…

The heat of the Sahara Desert lays to the south but it is not where we find ourselves. There is no place for sand in the Sudanian Savanah which is covered in the light green of grasses and shrubs. Within these grasses thrives many different animals, including many species of birds, reptiles and large mammals. There are also a number of rivers which flow through leading their way to the north where they empty into Lake Chad.

We are in southern Chad and while there may be a great many animals populating this grassy region there is also many different people who speak a many different languages. One of these languages is Goundo. Extending from the Niger-Congo family of languages, Goundo is a fleeting language.

While Goundo is similar to Besmé and Kim, other languages spoken within the area, its people have ceased teaching it to the youth. With only 30 speakers remaining, all whom are in the later stages of life, the language is on its last legs. Because of the proximity to other languages younger people have switched over to either Kabalai or Nancere, more prominent languages in the area.

The language is on its last legs and it will soon join the many other languages that have fallen out of use, it is a sad tale and one we have seen many times. But if not this language it will be another.

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Language of the Day: Waris

WarisLet’s take a journey…

Born out of a collision between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Pacific plate, the snow-capped Maoke Mountains range from the west to the east, its ten peaks reaching up 4000 metres into the sky. As the mountains slowly fall away into grassy and river infested hills they become lowlands which are blanketed in the lush greens of an ancient rainforest and pocked with low lying swamps.

It is in West Papua that we find ourselves, the home of Waris. From the family grouping Border comes the language of West Papua and Papua New Guinea. It is similar to the Imonda and people who speak the language can understand people who speak Waris and visa-versa. While it is also similar to Amanab the two languages are unintelligible.

Waris is spoken by 4000 people and is taught at an educational level in the places where it is spoken. The people who speak it may be small in number but they are passing the language torch on to their youth and because of that the language is growing in numbers.

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Language of the Day: Kurdish, Northern

7794-Kurdish-350x252.4Let’s take a journey…

The air you breathe is arid and the sun beats down making the ground hot to the touch and your skin warm. The land is mostly covered in light brown sand which comes together in dunes which look like the frozen waves of a great sea. The sand sways with the passing wind which picks up grains as it dances through the desert carrying its passengers from the Mediterranean in the west to India and central Asia in the east. While there is not much water there are a number of lakes speckling the land and a couple major rivers which twist and turn their way through the sands.

It is on the banks of these major rivers, namely the Aras, the Tigris and Euphrates, where more habitable lands are found, where agriculture can flourish and irrigation is possible. And it is because of this that the speakers of Northern Kurdish made their homes in the Middle East. The people are spread across Azerbaijan, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan but are mostly routed in Turkey in the north east of the Middle East.

Northern Kurdish comes from the general Indo-European language family and the Kurdish subset of the family. It is the most spoken form of Kurdish and is also called Kurmanji and Bahdini depending on where you are. Northern Kurdish is closely related to other Iranian languages like Persian due to the historical closeness of the speakers.

There have been many books written in Northern Kurdish and it is taught in many schools throughout the regions where it is spoken. There are 20 million speakers of the language worldwide with 3 million of those being monolingual. Although Northern Kurdish is currently in decline in Turkey where about 15 million speakers reside, all in all the language is in good standing and is continually taught in schools and has a number of publications made in the language.

Even though the land of the Middle East may be harsh and sand covered there are many people with many different languages residing there and Northern Kurdish is one of them.

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Language of the Day: Maasai

Maasai_people-image-5Let’s take a journey…

To the west rests Lake Victoria the second largest fresh water lake in the world, named after Queen Victoria who was the presiding Queen of England when it was discovered. To the east, where the sun rises signalling a new day is the great Indian Ocean whose waters touch the shores of Australia, Africa and Asia. The land between the fresh water lake to the west and the ocean to the east is filled with dense forests and mountains. Along this line rises the monstrous Mount Kilimanjaro who peaks at around six thousand metres above sea level.

It is in the forested and mountainous region along the border of Kenya and Tanzania that we find the Maasai people whose language shares their namesake. The Maasai language is a Maa language which comes from the Nilo-Saharan language family and is similar to Samburu, Chamus and Parakuyu.

The number of speakers has more than doubled since 1989, with the estimate at that time being around 400,000, while currently the number is around 850,000. Although the Kenyan government has tried to amalgamate the traditional semi-nomadic Maasai people into the modern Kenyan society they have been unsuccessful. The Massai people have been steadfast in their dedication to their culture, history and customs.

Even though the land is arid where it is flat and forested where it is not these people have remained true to their customs and have preserved their way of life and their language. Since 1989 the number of speakers has doubled and there are no signs that we will see any kind of decline in its growth. Maasai will be around for many years to come.

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Language of the Day: Ede Ije

6990050643_fc218391a6_zLet’s take a journey…

From the Niger River on its northern border all the way down to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean the land is a mixture of coastal plains, marshy lagoons, and Guinean forest-savanna mosaic-covered plateaus and valleys. Stuck in the middle of Togo and Nigeria this small mostly tropical African country has little to no elevation until the northern border and is sparsely populated.

We are in the country of Benin and it is within the country’s thorny scrub covered and baobab tree dotted Savana region that we find the speakers of Ede Ije. Spoken by fifty thousand people Ede Ije is a part of the Niger-Congo language family and is closely related to the Yoruba language which is also spoken within the area.

With each generation the language grows and is passed on. It is spoken by all groups of people and as the agriculture of the people becoming more stable the population will increase pushing the language upwards and onwards. While there is a large population of French speakers in Benin they have had little impact on diminishing the loyalty to Ede Ije.

It is a safe and vigorously used language and unlike many other languages that are within the confines of Africa it is stable.

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Language of the Day: Acholi

ACHOLI-DANCELet’s take a journey…

Down to a place to a place where the White Nile snakes its way from the northern border down to the southern border, segmenting the tropical forest and swamp covered land in half. The borders of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Congo, and the Central African Republic enclose this newly minted country within the confines of Central Africa. This country is new, having only gained its independence in 2011 from its northern neighbour, Sudan.

We are in the swamps of South Sudan and it is here that we find the language of Acholi primarily being spoken. Acholi is a Western Nilotic language which is a part of the Nilo-Saharan language classification. It is a language of many different names as it is spoken by many different tribes within the country and these tribes are growing in number and spreading the language. With this growth the language has developed a number of different dialects including Dhopaluo and Nyakwai along with a number of others.

The current population of speakers sits around one million two hundred thousand and is growing. Today it has spread into a number of other countries such as Uganda and Kenya. Furthermore, with the separation of South Sudan from Sudan the people who speak the language will have more stability then what used to be the case.

Acholi also has a rich past with one of the most successful African literary works, The Song of Lawino being originally published in the language. The 1966 epic poem penned by Okot p’Bitek describes the destruction of African society and culture during its colonization by Europeans. It was soon translated into many other languages and is viewed not only as an incredibly important work but as culturally iconic of the entirety of Africa.

Acholi will rise as Africa does and will continue to grow and spread across central Africa in the years to come. The people who speak it are proud and will remain loyal to the history that the language embodies and because of that it will not be going anywhere but up.

Thank you for joining us on this journey in language.

Language of the Day: Sãotomense

6327087780_bf85dc90b9_zLet’s take a journey…

The weekend may be over but we are heading out to a tropical island. Rising mountains with streaming rivers cover the central part of the island and are surrounded by with shores which are covered in the light coloured sand that is warm to the touch all year around. To the east are the waters of the Gulf of Guinea shortly followed by western Africa and right at the southern tip of the island lays the equator meaning that the island basks in the heat of the sun from January to December.

We find ourselves on the island of São Tomé and Príncipe a place founded by Portuguese explorers in the fifteenth century who named the then unhabituated island after Saint Thomas. It is here that we find the language of Sãotomense and the people who speak it.

Sãotomense, also known as Forro is a Portuguese based Creole language which is separate from the Portuguese dialect which is also spoken in the area. The language is spoken by around seventy thousand people and is used in social groups of middle aged and older people, with the youth having switched to the Portuguse dialect, São Tomean Portuguese.

The culture and language are a unique fusion of African and Portuguese and are rich in history and even though the youth have started switching to a new language the Sãotomense language and culture is still preserved and very much still intact.

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Language of the Day: Kaba Naa, Sara

KabaNSaraLet’s take a journey…

From north to south we see a duality of environments. In the north lays the sweeping sands of the desert, a place that sees little rain and moisture and to the south the ground is covered in the greens of plant life, it is fertile and habitable. In the central area we see a transition area as the desert moves into the fertile lands to the south this is the area where Lake Chad begins, the namesake for the country we find ourselves in.

We are in Chad a landlocked country of Central Africa and the home to the speakers of the Kaba Naa, Sara language. Kaba Naa, Sara is one of five languages from the line of Bongo–Bagirmi which come from the Central Sudanic language family. The languages in the grouping are spread across a number of countries in Central and Northern Africa.

The people who speak the languages make their home in the south western area of Chad which is where Lake Chad lays. The Lake itself grows and shrinks relative to the seasons and the weather and its size has varied greatly over the years. Unlike the variability of Lake Chad the Kaba Naa, Sara language has seen constant growth for many years.

The language is spoken by nearly forty thousand people spread across the area and is the primary language of the people. It is taught from generation to generation and there is no threat of it declining. Kaba Naa, Sara is a developing and growing language and will only become more prominent in the years to come.

In a time when many languages are going in the opposite direction of Kaba Naa, Sara it is nice to see a story of a language that is small but flourishing.

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Language of the Day: Wayoró

indios_2007Let’s take a journey…

The landscape may be covered in the patchwork of farms but it used to be filled with trees wider than you or I can hug. Leaves would spread out from the branches of these trees creating a dark green canopy above and as the rain fell, as it did more often than naught, it would be caught by this canopy. The air is humid and the wide Madeira River snakes its way through the state along with numerous other rivers.

We are in the Rondônia province of Brazil and even though this place is a part of the Rainforests of the Amazon it is hardly reminiscent of the designation any more. The province is one of the largest areas that have been deforested in the Amazon and not only has this damaged habitats for a great many species of plants and animals, it has also affected the way of life of all the native tribes who reside in the area.

There are great many native groups who call the Amazon home and they have been there for countless generations, some are still undiscovered. These tribes thrive in an environment that many of us would be hard pressed to survive one night in. There are many dangers that come with living in such a place but the tribes have learned how to live in the Amazon and that is where they call home. One such tribe is the speakers of Wayoró.

The language of Wayoró is a part of the Tuparí branch of the Tupian grouping. The language is spoken by seventy people when it was last documented. Akin to many of the native people who call the Amazon home the Wayoró people have slowly been pushed from their homes as the Amazon has been developed. Today the language is estimated to be on the verge of extinction with very few speakers remaining. The people may still live on but their language will soon be lost. A story told far too often.

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Language of the Day: Lushootseed

Skagit_ViHilbert03Let’s take a journey…

To a place where two boarders meet and where mountains ranges run high into sky covered in the dark lush green of pine and fir trees until the mountains reach the heights where white snows cap their tops like white toques.

Here on the western boarder of the United States and Canada where Washington State meets British Columbia is where we used to find the people who speak Lushootseed. The Lushootseed language and its brother Twana are a part of the Southern Coastal Salish subgroup of the Salishan family of languages. While the language used to be spoken by Puget region Sound peoples the language has entered the later stages of its life cycle.

The last time the language was researched was back in the 1990s and at that time the language had less than 60 speakers, most of whom were elders. But even though it is more than likely that the language has lost the last of its native speakers there was a major effort in the perseveration of the language. Today there are revitalization efforts in place to bring back the language, with many classes being offered to teach the language and an annual conference on the language held at Seattle University. There is also a website where you can download Lushootseed lesson books.

With so many groups coming together to make sure that the light never fades from the Lushootseed language it can safely be assumed that it will not be lost.

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Language of the Day: Marangis

heroLet’s take a journey…

We find ourselves in a place whose shores are lapped by the waters of the Bismarck Sea and whose mountains stretch up into the clouds some of which have the potential to erupt shooting fire and ash into the sky. These volcanoes have created many interesting geologic features such as black sand beaches and crater lakes. The region also has a great many islands of various sizes freckling the waters of the Bismarck and rain forests.

This is the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea and it is where we find the speakers of the Marangis language. Marangis is a part of the Ramu family which has 30 members all of which are found in Papua New Guinea. While it is commonly known as Marangis it is sometimes called Watam. It is a language closely related to Bosmun because of its unusual plural markers.

While the language only boasts a population of speakers in the 600s it is doing quite well because of the devotion of its speakers to passing it on to their youth. The people themselves can be found in the mainland area of the Madang Province and also in a number of islands along the coast.

While there are many stories of languages dying out this is a joyful story of a people who are proud of their language and who have built a stable home for themselves and their language.

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Language of the Day: El Molo

tumblr_mxccfn4up51qdjbb7o1_1280Let’s take a journey into Africa and through the Eastern Province of Kenya.

In the arid air of the region we find the Chalbi Desert nestled next to Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world. Located in the province is also the river Ewaso Ng’iro and Mount Kenya, whose heights stretch 5200 meters in the sky, making it taller than any other geographic feature in Kenya and granting it the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hidden within the northern portion of the Eastern Province’s Lake Turkana is what remains of the speakers of the El Molo language. The language itself is routed in the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. Today, However, there is little documentation and data currently available on the number of speakers remaining. What is known is that the language is on the verge of extinction if it has not already become extinct.

As the years progressed the El Molo tribes within the area have moved around eventually joining other tribes such as the Nilotic who speak one of the Nilo-Saharan languages and also have different customs. These amalgamations have caused not only the loss of much of the El Molo language but also of the cultural customs as the El Molo people have adopted the customs of the Nilotic people or whatever other tribe they join with rather than maintain their own.

While this has painted a bleak picture for the El Molo people and there way of life there is still many historical sites which have been preserved to remember a way of life that may soon no longer exist. It may not be the same as the real thing but it is far better than the alternative which is the fate that many other languages have found. And for the optimistic out there, with little documentation on the current standing of the language comes hope that out there may be tribes of speakers of the language still thriving and on their own. There is always hope even if it is only a sliver.

Thank you for joining us on this journey in languages.

Language of the Day: Yupik, Naukan

Archangel_reindeer3If you were to go to the most northeastern point of Asia you would have to venture up into northern Russia where the Chukchi Sea lays to the north, the Bearing Sea to the south and the Bearing Straight would lay in the east. You would find yourself in the Chukchi Peninsula and it is here that we find the speakers of the Yupik, Naukan language.

Spoken by nearly 500 people this language finds itself on the verge of extinction. Currently the language is spoken by people above the age of 40 and is not spoken by the youth of the people.

The language itself is one of four languages that are part of the Yupik language grouping with the others being Central Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, and Sirenik. The people who speak the language are indigenous people of Siberia who have resided in the Chukchi Peninsula for nearly 2000 years.

Language of the Day: Pitjantjatjara

Carclew group shot_MEDPitjantjatjara is a dialect of the Western Desert Language found in the Central Desert region of Australia. The Western Desert Language itself is comprised of a variety of distinct dialects many of which are viewed as separate languages because of the vast differences that exist between the many dialects. The closest dialects to Pitjantjatjara are either the Yankunytjatjara dialect or the Ngaanyatjarra dialect.

The Western Desert language grouping became so diverse because of the large expanse of desert which the people populate. The groups who speak one of the many dialects would have done so without much of any contact with other tribes allowing the many dialects to grow and flourish. This lack of influence from one dialect to the next resulted in what can be seen in the area now; many unique dialects that are unintelligible from one another.

Today Pitjantjatjara is spoken by nearly 4000 people spread across the north-western area of the Central Desert. These people are broken into small groups most of whom are monolingual. While the people have given up their nomadic hunter and gather lifestyle they have retained their language and their culture.