Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

The Last Man on Earth To Speak His Language (axios.com) 177

From a report: An elderly man in Peru named Amadeo Garcia Garcia is the last person on earth to speak his native language, Taushiro, the NY Times' Nicholas Casey reports in a remarkable long-read. A combination of disease and exploitation have led the Taushiro, a tribe of hunter-gatherers in the Amazon, to the verge of extinction. In the last century, at least 37 languages have disappeared in Peru alone, lost in the steady clash and churn of national expansion, migration, urbanization and the pursuit of natural resources.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Last Man on Earth To Speak His Language

Comments Filter:
  • Sorry ... (Score:2, Redundant)

    ... what did you say?

  • Not really bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:13PM (#55816683)

    Of the things that are going extinct, speakers of a particular language are not of great concern. Some people may see it as a tragedy but we aren't really losing much of anything. It's more romanticism over something interesting more than anything else.

    • They always leave out, or carefully word, the fact that the main cause is that the living relatives of the past speakers don't find value in speaking it.

      Compare it to Irish, which nobody was allowed to speak for generations, but when they got their freedom they wanted to learn it again!

      • Compare it to Irish, which nobody was allowed to speak for generations, but when they got their freedom they wanted to learn it again!

        And it's only taken them a century to get up to 3%!

        • Q: Why did God invent whiskey?

          A: So the Irish would never rule the world.

        • Irish people are proud of their right to speak bad Irish, they really don't care what anybody thinks of it.

          Gaelic isn't really a language that lends itself to true forms anyways...

          • Irish people are proud of their right to speak bad Irish

            Clearly not, or more of them would.

            Gaelic isn't really a language that lends itself to true forms anyways...

            Not sure what that's even supposed to mean.

            • Right, you didn't understand what I said. That's every time your purport to have read any of it.

              The part that isn't clear is, why do you respond to your own ignorance with your nose in the air as if you're some sort of natural authority about something? You're consistently clueless about the literal meaning of clear statements.

              And you obviously don't speak for the Irish, if you think I'm wrong go to Ireland and find out, or read a fucking book for once in your life and you might even, as I have, read books

    • Re:Not really bad. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <(ross) (at) (quirkz.com)> on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:23PM (#55816765) Homepage

      I'll admit I don't feel much twinge about losing a language. Now, cultures dying out, maybe, and associated stories and traditions, definitely, I can see how there's some value being lost. But at some level I feel like more languages just leads to more confusion, and the fewer of them we have, the more likely it is we'll understand each other.

      • I'll admit I don't feel much twinge about losing a language.

        Agreed with the exception that sometimes we lose historical information when we lose a language. But in most cases little of value is lost. If it wasn't important enough for people to learn, odds are good it wasn't important in general.

        at some level I feel like more languages just leads to more confusion, and the fewer of them we have, the more likely it is we'll understand each other.

        Excellent point. Speaking a different language makes it just a bit easier to engage in pointless tribalism and we really don't need more of that. If the cost of people getting along better is to lose a bunch of minor languages then that is a cost I'm more than willing to

        • But in most cases little of value is lost. If it wasn't important enough for people to learn, odds are good it wasn't important in general.

          That is the "best of all possible worlds" fallacy. In other words, for someone living in a cage or a basement, learning to swim or ride a bicycle is not "important" enough.

          Excellent point. Speaking a different language makes it just a bit easier to engage in pointless tribalism and we really don't need more of that.

          Tribalism has nothing to do with language or culture.

          Rwa

      • by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @03:02PM (#55817569) Journal

        Language is the same as culture. Or, perhaps better put, language is inextricably mixed with culture.

        Yes, it is possible to experience a culture without speaking the language, but that experience is muted and without depth. Language and culture grow into and out of each other. One might argue nuances, such as various dialects of American English supporting the variety of cultures in the different corners of the US, but without a unifying language across a population, a deep, resilient culture does not develop.

        My favorite example of this is the deaf versus blind populations. Blind people do not have a unifying culture that is starkly separate from the normal embedding culture, but deaf people do. Why? Because blind people communicate in their normal, native language whereas deaf people have a distinct language (i.e., sign language) that, with regional variations, defines subcultures that are separate and apart from the mainstream.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        But at some level I feel like more languages just leads to more confusion, and the fewer of them we have, the more likely it is we'll understand each other.

        I don't think it's the long tail that is the source of confusion, it's agreeing on a common tongue. Like Europe has a ton of small national languages, but you get by on English pretty much everywhere. I mean if you speak a language only spoken by a few million or less you have a pretty high motivation to learn a world language. It's the medium size languages that are problematic, like if tens or hundreds of millions speak the same language it's not worth the effort. You'll do fine knowing "just" Portugese,

      • I'll admit I don't feel much twinge about losing a language. Now, cultures dying out, maybe, and associated stories and traditions, definitely, I can see how there's some value being lost. But at some level I feel like more languages just leads to more confusion, and the fewer of them we have, the more likely it is we'll understand each other.

        So why are Americans losing the speaking of English. Are you gonna tell me it ain't so?

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          I'm sorry, but I don't really understand your question, or how it's tied to what you quoted.

    • These obscure languages cause speakers to be economically and socially marginalized. They are better off learning a mainstream language, and devoting time to learning economically useful skills rather than learning a language that is only spoken by a handful of families.

      When a language dwindles to a few dozen speakers, we should video record a few hours of conversation and put it up on Youtube for future linguists to study, and then move on.

      • 1) A few hours of conversation are not of much use. 2) Learning an additional first language hasn't been shown to be taxing in any way to children, including time spent.
        • Learning an additional first language hasn't been shown to be taxing in any way to children, including time spent.

          Then they should learn a second mainstream language that will actually be useful. Spanish+English will lead to far more life opportunities than Spanish+Taushiro.

          It is easy to say that some impoverished child in a tribe half a world away should learn a useless language. But instead, how about you teach YOUR child an obscure language? Suddenly it doesn't seem like such a great idea.

          • Then they should learn a second mainstream language that will actually be useful. Spanish+English will lead to far more life opportunities than Spanish+Taushiro.

            They can always pick a second language, but in a Spanish+Taushiro speaking region, there aren't many primary English speakers to be found. It's perfectly possible for a Spanish+Taushiro primary bilingual to acquire English as a second language.

            • in a Spanish+Taushiro speaking region ...

              There is no "region". There is one guy.

              Should other people learn the language to "keep it alive"? I don't think so.

              • There is no "region".

                Well, not anymore.

                Should other people learn the language to "keep it alive"? I don't think so.

                Obviously, it's too late for that now.

    • Apart from being incredibly callous, these remarks say more about you than they do about the subject matter, which is not just about losing a language, a culture, a people. Its about how and why these things were lost. I definitely recommend to RTFA before issuing such inane comments.
    • Re:Not really bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @03:55PM (#55817917)

      Language studies are valuable.

      Languages evolve slowly, so they act as evidence for human migration patterns. The exact details of the migration into the Americas is still under debate, and languages form quite a bit of evidence. Consider the extent of the Dene-Yeniseian language family - members exist in parts of Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Southwest America (Navajo is the most well-known of these languages). This is good evidence that humans entered the continent from Siberia - but also good evidence that the migration occurred in at least two distinct, widely-separated waves, as no DY language is known in South America or eastern North America. Perhaps Taushiro, the Peruvian language the article focuses on, could have provided evidence for or against that theory.

      Languages also tell us things about the human brain. There are languages with no words for relative position (eg. left or right), but speakers can simply use absolute position (eg. east or west), and more interestingly, do so correctly. Apparently keeping track of your heading is something you can just do, if your language and lifestyle require it. There was quite a bit of uproar when a study of a certain Amazon language completely upended a lot of theories about human syntax - specifically, the language seemed to not allow recursion. Every sentence is a simple declarative, not allowing things like this sub-clause you're reading right now. (I will note that the study was not very rigorous, and ongoing follow-up studies may prove it false - some of the other claims are already overturned.) But, either way, we learn something about the human mind and its capacity for language.

    • by JustOK ( 667959 )
      What if it was the only language in which the answer to life, the universe and everything could be expressed?
    • Of the things that are going extinct, speakers of a particular language are not of great concern. Some people may see it as a tragedy but we aren't really losing much of anything. It's more romanticism over something interesting more than anything else.

      There is also a linguistic and anthropological value being lost when a language is no longer spoken. In this specific case, the loss is more tragic considering that the language loss has been caused by disease and exploitation (rather than a pure language shift done for economic, social or utilitarian reasons.)

      Such losses cannot be ascribed a monetary value, which is why a) the loss is invaluable and b) almost always inevitable.

  • If a spoken language "goes extinct", if there was no written language that accompanied it, the main "problem" would be, "how would I be fluent enough to communicate with these people when I use my time machine to visit them when they spoke language X?"

    The written language, and the history written in it, that is a bit more of a problem for future of that culture. Assuming there are written histories, working with this "last native speaker" to build a base for translation would be a good idea.

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      if you've only got one speaker left, record everything he has to say about every possible topic.
  • If he's the only one who speaks his native language, how can anyone know that he actually speaks it? He could just be babbling in complete gibberish, and everyone would be standing there going ... aww, how sad ... nobody else speaks his language any more ...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cause they started studying the language BEFORE the rest of the village died? The answers in your questions are... DUNH DUNH DUUUNNNNNHHHHHHHHHH in the article.

      Captcha:Dumber

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

        They didn't die. They just didn't bother learning the gibberish that grandpa speaks as it has no value to them.

    • Ask him to translate something in his native language, record it, and then a few weeks later, ask him to translate it back.

  • by kaur ( 1948056 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:42PM (#55816975)

    https://livinglanguages.wordpr... [wordpress.com]

    This estimation can be wrong in many ways, but the point remains: languages do die all the time.

  • They should teach him to program in BLISS or COBOL, just to add some irony.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @03:24PM (#55817723) Journal

    And with his dying breath, he whispered one word..."covfefe".

  • How stupid are idiots who are mourning disappearance of rare shit?

  • Another six thousand or so and we can dump unicode.

  • Language is fundamentally divisive. Language is the original IFF. Identify friend or foe device. Israelites and Ephraimites looed identical. When they Ephraimite city fell, and the residents tried to pretend to be Israelites to escape slaughter, how were they singled out? They were asked to say "shibboleth". Ephraimites said "sibboleth". 42000 of them who could not say it right were slain on the banks of river Jordan, according to the old testament. ,

    Some 75%% of all extant languages today, some 4000 of t

    • Not just divisive; it's deeper. Language is breathing pattern (exhale breath turned visible). And that is mind. So friend is someone who agrees with your mind-construct (ideas, right/wrong notions).

      Written language is not of that significance; it's the spoken that connects to the breathing. You know why a phone call is zillion times more effective than a written email.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison

Working...