Endangered Language

Distribution of language families and isolates...

Distribution of language families and isolates north of Mexico at first contact. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Most of us probably never think about the language we speak, unless we’re visiting another country and find it difficult to communicate.  But what if you spoke a language that had slowly died out with all of the people who ever knew it, until you were the only person who could still speak it?

 

Even worse…what if there was someone else who also knew the language, but refused to speak to you?

 

This isn’t such an improbable scenario.  In Mexico, for example,  there are many indigenous languages that are slowly fading away as the population ages.  One such language is called Ayapaneco—spoken in the town of Apaya, Mexico for generations. Unfortunately, the language is about to disappear as only two men still speak it…and they refuse to talk to each other.  Linguists have stepped in and are trying to convince the men to converse with each other so that the vocabulary, diction and accent may be recorded and studied, in hopes of preserving it. But the men just don’t seem to get along.

 

It’s not clear why the men refuse to talk to each other…maybe a feud or maybe they just don’t have a lot in common…but if no one is able to get them chatting, Ayapaneco is just one of many languages that will probably disappear in this generation. There are probably similar languages in the area, as is common with indigenous peoples, and linguists might be able to piece together some aspects in order to preserve parts of it. But it would be much easier if they had a little help, of course.

 

One might argue that the English language has evolved and changed so much through generations (and is still changing), that it might be hardly recognizable to someone who spoke it 500 years ago, let’s say. The advent of computers and the use of spell check and short forms and the like has certainly changed the written form. Could massive changes to the spoken word be far behind? Could it be that someday, someone will be lamenting over the loss of English?  It seems unlikely, I know, but it makes you stop and think about communication and language in a new way when you hear stories like this.  You can read more on the story of the Mexican village and the men who are willing to let their language die out, right here.

 

Would YOU refuse to talk to someone if you were the only two people who knew a language?

 

Perfect? Not so much…

It’s Tuesday, and I’m writing this blog post on Monday. Right now, much of the Eastern seaboard in the United States is under the very real threat of the most terrifying storm system(s) we’ve seen in a long time.  And it’s not even winter!  Hurricane Sandy is doing her best to come ashore and several states are in Emergency mode, with highways closed, shelters open and people just hoping for the best.

Several years ago, Sebastian Junger wrote the harrowing tale of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat that was lost at sea during another “perfect storm” which occurred almost during this exact date. It seemed too crazy to be real: a fishing boat goes out in relatively calm seas but encounters several mammoth storm systems that merge together at one point, exactly where the Andrea Gail ends up. The captain and crew members were lost and the Andrea Gail was never recovered.

Later, it was made into a movie, imagining what happened to the captain and crew while they were out at sea. We happen to have both the movie and the book at the library, if you’re interested in reading about/watching this other perfect storm. 

Today, I’m afraid many people are feeling the same things as those family members in the movie, awaiting word from their loved ones and wishing for their safety. Thanks to the internet reports, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, it’s a bit easier to keep tabs on everyone.  If you want a good view of what’s going on, I suggest checking out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. We certainly live in an instant culture and if the power remains on, then the information will get through. Good luck to everyone facing this storm!

Renewable energy

After watching the adorable short film The Windmill Farmer by Joaquin Baldwin, I could see why people are inspired to try renewable energy resources.  Although it takes quite a bit of money and know-how to get something like this going (not to mention the approval of all your neighbours to house a windfarm), the idea of an alternate source of energy is very appealing.

We have plenty of books at the library on alternative energy resources, going green and even wind power, so if you’re interested in exploring other options, stop in and see if we have something on your topic.  If we don’t, we can always try to order in a book from another library, so don’t leave without asking.  Here are just a few of the interesting books we have to offer:

If you’re interested, I also came across this fascinating map of windfarms in Canada.  You can find out more about the map and the idea at the Canadian Wind Energy Association website here.

How will you save the planet today?

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 9:22 am  Comments (1)  
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Are you switching off for Earth Hour?

voteearthOn Saturday, March 28th at 8:30pm (your own local time), the Earth will be switching off.  It is a global mission to save our planet called Earth Hour and so far, 83 countries have committed to participating in Earth Hour and hopefully, many more will join.

What is Earth Hour?  It all began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour.  Last year, it became a global mission and this year, it is a way to cast your vote.  Turn your lights off…and you are voting for Earth.  Leave your lights on….and you’re voting for global warming.

It will be easy for homes to shut off their lights for an hour, but even businesses should think about participating.  Why not turn off the lights in your office or better yet, on your whole office floor before leaving on Friday afternoon?  You’ll be saving your company some money as well as saving the earth. I know we’ll be shutting everything off at the library that evening.  If we all did this on a weekly basis, think about how much better off the planet would be.

For more information on this great endeavor, you can visit Earth Hour here.

So go ahead, turn off those lights and cast your vote for Planet Earth!

Atlantis?

atlantis_270x158 (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

We’ve all used Google Earth before, the simple free download that allows you to search the earth in great detail. Google Earth has upgraded to now include Google Ocean… a unique experience where you can search the bottom of the ocean for shipwrecks, undersea canyons and anything else you might spot.  Of course, people are doing their own searches to find unique and interesting things that no one knew about (the same happened with the original Google Earth where people were quick to claim discoveries of long lost rain forests or secret bunkers in Iraq), and one such person claims to have discovered something strange on the ocean floor just off the coast of Africa.  Is it the list city of Atlantis?

GoogleEarth was quick to point out that this is not something strange and in fact is actually lines drawn on the ocean floor by boats using sonar collect data.  Of course there are disbelievers out there, people who are sure that GoogleEarth is trying to cover up the discovery to later claim it for themselves, but it would be wise to know a bit about ocean data before making the claims.  You can read the entire article about the claim here, including the coordinates so that you can visit the spot yourself.

We have a wide variety of books in the library regarding Atlantis and you can find most of them under the call number 398.42  You can also read a bit more about the lost city here on Wikipedia.

Do you believe Atlantis is out there?

Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 7:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Is that really true?

We have plenty of atlases in the library, and we often have people come in to look at them.  An atlas is very useful when you are trying to find a certain place in the world (I just used a globe today, actually to see how far Greenland was from Iceland), but other than topographical information, it doesn’t tell you a lot about our world and the people in it.

There is an interesting website called Worldmapper that aims to show us exactly what all of us are doing in each part of the world, and they have just come out with a book called The Atlas of the Real World which uses cartograms and world images to show us interesting data, like how many internet users there were in the world at various points in time. You can view some of the interesting maps at the Creative Review Blog here:

http://www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog/the-atlas-of-the-real-world/

Wealth in the year 1900

The effects of the industrial revolution have become apparent here – the United Kingdom has the highest estimated GDP per person.

Projected wealth in the year 2015

China seems set to come full circle from 2,000 years ago. If estimates are correct, by 2015 China will be producing 27 per cent of the world’s wealth, up from just five per cent in 1960.

Its hard to say how accurate the maps are, but they are interesting to look at.  They make you think about how we are living.

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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