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Endangered languages are all around

A version of "seven degrees of separation" showing connections between famous movie stars and media personalities and endangered languages. Endangered languages really are all around. We need only be aware and take action to preserve them.
by

Stephen Self

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of Endangered languages are all around

Hanks plays David, an American pilot serving with the Royal Air Force during WWII. While recovering from a leg injury in Jerusalem, David meets a young Jewish girl named Sarah and falls in love with her.
David notices Sarah and her family speak a different language to one another and is intrigued.
Conclusion
Today, there are between 100,000 and 400,000 speakers of Ladino, mostly older. The language is steadily declining in the number of social domains and contexts in which it is used, making it an endangered language. Not only did Tom Hanks star in a movie where an endangered language is spoken, but "Every time we say goodbye" is one of only five films listed in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) that involve Judeo-Spanish, making it a rare find indeed.
Tom Hanks
Take everyone's favorite comic actor, Tom Hanks, for example. Early in his career, Hanks starred in the 1986 film "Every time we say goodbye" .
Words are all around us
And while those of us who live in industrialized nations with long and stable histories of literacy tend to think of our words as more or less permanent, the vast majority of languages throughout the world are unwritten. Almost all of these oral languages are threatened with extinction within the current century. Thus, language endangerment and endangered languages are actually all around. Even the stars of the movies we watch have connections to endangered languages in one way or another. We just have to look closely and follow the clues.
When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, they took their own variety of medieval Spanish with them. Over the years, the language mingled throughout the Mediterranean region with languages of North Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In terms of orthography, it is distinguished by the use of the letter k where Modern Spanish uses qu and c. Phonologically, it is distinguished by, among other things, preservation of sounds like the sh of 'shower' and g of 'garage''.
From 1997 to 2000, Ellen was involved in a much-publicized relationship with actress Anne Heche, who, in 1998, starred with Harrison Ford in the film Six Days, Seven Nights.
In the film,Heche's character is invited to spend a week with her boyfriend, played by "Friends" star David Schwimmer, on the South Pacific Island paradise of Makatea (though for filming, Kauai stood in for Makatea).
Conclusion
Though about 15,600 identify as ethnically Tuamotuan both on the Tuamotu Islands and on Tahiti, only between 4,000 and 8,000 still speak the language; many former speakers have shifted to Tahitian, which is seen as having higer prestige. Even the international code used to uniquely identify Tuamotuan (pmt) is derived from the derogatory name Tahitians gave to the islands: Paumotu, which means "Subservient Islands". The Tuamotuans themselves prefer the name Tuamotu which means "Distant Islands". The future of their language is increasingly in doubt.
Ellen Degeneres
About a decade later, with his career flying high, Tom Hanks provided the voice for the quirky cowboy Woody in the hit Disney-Pixar film "Toy Story". In 2003, Ellen Degeneres also voiced an animated character in a Disney-Pixar movie: the amnesiac Dorie from "Finding Nemo".
Endangered languages are all around
Though it may be easy for those of us who live in wealth, industrialized nations with long and stable histories of literacy to overlook, language endangerment and endangered languages are actually all around. Even the stars of the movies we watch have connections to endangered languages in one way or another. We just have to look closely and follow the clues.
Makatea, with a population of only around 61, is an atoll in the northwestern part of the Tuamotu archipelago, the largest chain of atolls in the world, spanning an area the size of Western Europe, all located about 300km east of Tahiti. The statutory language of national identity for the Tuamotu Islands is Tuamotuan, a Malayo-Polynesian language related to Tahitian.
In 2004, Oprah narrated "Brothers of the Borderland", a film commissioned by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and directed by Julie Dash.
In 1991, another film directed by Dash, "Daughters of the Dust", opened to great critical acclaim. It won Sundance awards and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. The movie tells the story of three generations of Gullah women on St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina.

Conclusion
Estimates of the Gullah speaker population range from 250,000 ethnic Gullahs with 7,000-10,000 monolinguals to a 2010 census figure of only 350 speakers. The traditional Sea Island culture and way of life of Gullah speakers have certainly been fading. However, films like Dash's "Daughters of the Dust" have brought attention to the people and their language and have helped efforts at cultural and linguistic preservation.
Oprah Winfrey
In 1997, Ellen Degeneres came out publicly as a lesbian during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Endangered languages are all around
Though it may be easy for those of us who live in wealth, industrialized nations with long and stable histories of literacy to overlook, language endangerment and endangered languages are actually all around. Even the stars of the movies we watch have connections to endangered languages in one way or another. We just have to look closely and follow the clues.
Gullah or Geechee is also know as Sea Island Creole or Sea Island Creole English. It is an English-based pidgin with heavy influence from West African languages in both vocabulary and grammatical structures. The Gullah word for 'peanut' is guber, from the Kikongo and Kimbundu word n'guba. From this source derives the modern English word "goober" meaning, literally, 'peanut', but metaphorically also "a nut" or "crazy person".
Early in his career, Pitt had an uncredited role in the 1987 thriller "No way out". The star of that film was Kevin Costner, playing a U.S. naval officer who was really a Russian spy. Pitt is visible just over Costner's right shoulder in the still below.
In 1990, Costner starred in the highly praised epic "Dances with wolves", playing a Civil War officer who encounters the Lakota Sioux on the frontier and eventually "goes native", adopting their culture, language, and ways.
Conclusion
There are between 6,000 and 6,400 Lakota speakers today. The number is declining, though. The average age of the remaining Lakota speakers is 65. In 1993, it was 50. Revitalization efforts are on-going, with immersion programs for Lakota youth, textbooks, video broadcasts, dictionaries, and regular meetings to discuss and create new words for the language to cover modern concepts and new technologies like 'laptop'.
Brad Pitt and Kevin Costner
In 1998, Oprah starred in the film adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved". Actress Thandie Newton played the title role in that film. Four years prior, Newton had played a maid opposite Brad Pitt in the Anne Rice adaptation "Interview with a vampire".
Endangered languages are all around
Though it may be easy for those of us who live in wealth, industrialized nations with long and stable histories of literacy to overlook, language endangerment and endangered languages are actually all around. Even the stars of the movies we watch have connections to endangered languages in one way or another. We just have to look closely and follow the clues.
Lakota is one of three dialects of the Sioux language. The novel on which "Dances with wolves" was based featured Comanche Indians, but the film reportedly changed to the Lakota due to the larger number of speakers. A phonological peculiarity of Lakota is that, while it has the consonant pairs
/p,b/ and /k,g/, there is no /d/ corresponding to voiceless
/t/. The Dakota dialect, as its name suggests, has the /d/ sound. Both Lakota and Dakota mean "friends, allies" in the Sioux language. The stereotypical Native American greeting "How!" comes from Lakota 'hau' meaning 'hello'. Though since 'hau' is the only Lakota word with a diphthong, it may actually be a non-Siouan loan.
Words are all around
What makes some apparently more permanent than others is the degree to which they are documented. The Oxford English Dictionary contains some 750,000 words and has a history dating back to 1857. The 2nd edition of the New Lakota Dictionary has 23,000 words and a history that dates back about 30 years. A lot of work remains to be done to document the estimated 3,500+ endangered languages of the world. Join the crowd and donate to further this important effort.
All that's missing is...
You
Music Credits
"Light Thought, Variation 1"
and
"Silver Blue Light"
by
Kevin MacLeod
www.incompetech.com
The End
Full transcript