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Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Tue Sep 09, 2003 12:18 pm

When my brother studied Russian, he said that the only reason it was possible for him to learn it is because we have Russian ancestors. <br /><br />Does anyone else here find that learning languages that your [close] ancestors might have spoken is easier than the languages that they probably didn't? By 'ancestors', I wouldn't go farther back than great-grandparents, I think. <br /><br />I did find French to be easier than Latin or Greek, but I haven't studied either of those in-depth yet, so I don't know. My ancestors on my father's side spoke Gaelic, which is definitely easier for me to pick up than Greek, and ties with Latin, I think. <br /><br />What about the rest of you?<br /><br />Keesa
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Emma_85 » Tue Sep 09, 2003 12:44 pm

If your parents or grandparents spoke a language then of course it's easier for you to learn the language, too, as you've heard it spoken a lot and especially if you were very young at the time. <br />But of course just because someone’s ancestors (who they never met, and so never heard speak) spoke some foreign language doesn't help them.<br /><br />And not to forget that all it does is help a bit, some people can have no relatives in that country and still speak the language better, than those with, because they learned harder and practised more.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Episcopus » Tue Sep 09, 2003 1:39 pm

The great very much underrated and ignored language of Armenian speak my father's family and I (although due to my living in Britain and rarely seeing my family my vocabulary and awareness of grammar SUCKS). <br />Were I able to find one great armenian grammar book from which to learn I would study it with great zeal.<br />To be armenian is to be extremely strong at languages so I grasp anything easily not just one language.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Alundis » Wed Sep 10, 2003 12:07 am

Who knows, Emma? Maybe there are genetic traits that make learning a certain language or group of languages easier...<br /><br /><br />Here's my personal language heritage... I am American, and my native language is English. Both of my parents speak English only. My paternal grandparents and that generation of my father's household spoke Lithuanian, but they died before I was born. My father cannot speak it at all, but he told me that he probably could have learned if he cared. He shunned the language as it was infected wit the stigma surrounding anything from "the old country". Today's attitudes are quite contrary... I never tried to learn Lithuanian, but maybe I should give it a try ;)<br /><br />My other grandfather also died before I was born. I'm not sure what languages he spoke, but his parents were Slovak. My grandmother on my mother's side is still alive, and she knows some Italian. I don't know if she is fluent, as I've never heard converse in it. I may have heard a very limited amount before the critical period. However, I did spend one semester in Italy when I was a teenager (but at an English-speaking school), and Italian is the only foreign language I've actually spoken outside of classes, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be :)
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby mingshey » Wed Sep 10, 2003 4:36 am

My parents speak fluent Japanese, because they are educated during the japanese occupation. When my father returned from a trip to japan, he boasted that no one there recognised him a foreigner before he revealed himself becase his japanese was so perfect -- more perfect than the young natives. But I learned almost nothing of japanese speech, let alone some of the greetings.<br />I wish I had learnt japanese from them because I'm a fan of Hayao's animations, besides that almost any interesting books of the world are translated into japanese. I live far away from them and have seldom chance now. Though I took some lessons and self-study, I'm not well versed in that language.<br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby vinobrien » Wed Sep 10, 2003 10:08 am

Both of my parents were Irish. Both learnt in Irish at school. My aunt had a gold foine (a ring awarded for complete fluency in Irish).<br />I can speak or at least read to a "newspaper" level most European languages plus Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, Latin and Greek but Irish, no matter how hard I try just doesn't, doesn't go in. :'(
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Wed Sep 10, 2003 12:46 pm

Hmm. I wonder if there's something in the genetic makeup of a person that makes learning a language that their parents or grandparents might have spoken easier...or harder. <br /><br />Keesa
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Emma_85 » Wed Sep 10, 2003 1:10 pm

Well both my parents are English, but going back in the family tree on my mothers side it's all Gaelic speaking, Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland. I don't know anything about those Celtic languages, though, neither does my mother.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby klewlis » Wed Sep 10, 2003 1:46 pm

My family on both sides has been in canada so long that they all just speak english... I think only my *great* grandparents still knew the languages of their parents' homes, and aside from my younger brother and myself I can't think of anyone in my extended (and very large) family that actively studies any languages. <br /><br />Maybe that's why I go for the 'dead' languages ;)
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby annis » Wed Sep 10, 2003 2:41 pm

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=0#5684 date=1063197989]<br />Hmm. I wonder if there's something in the genetic makeup of a person that makes learning a language that their parents or grandparents might have spoken easier...or harder. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />There's no evidence at all that genetics of this sort are invovled in learning a particular language. Wee baby brains are wired to acquire as quickly as possible whatever language happens to be going on around them. Herritage appears to be irrelevant.<br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Thu Sep 11, 2003 12:10 am

I'll have to remember to tell my brother that his excuse for not learning Spanish has been proved invalid by the learned people on Textkit! ;D<br /><br />Keesa
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 3:29 am

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=0#5684 date=1063197989]<br />Hmm. I wonder if there's something in the genetic makeup of a person that makes learning a language that their parents or grandparents might have spoken easier...or harder. <br /><br />Keesa<br />[/quote]<br /><br />It might not be politically correct, nor widely believed, but I believe that what you described probably is true to some extent.<br /><br />People who would argue against this would point out that language changes over time, and that people learn easily the native language of their location regardless of their race.<br /><br />Personally I think things like bone structure of the mouth / jaw etc might contribute to some sounds being more selected than others. There is also the feeling of kinship with one's ancestors and their stories. Besides, if other animals have genetic recognised sounds, why not humans?<br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby benissimus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 5:29 am

I can't imagine how somehow speaking and knowing a certain language would influence your genetic material in the slightest. It is a fact however that very little is understood about how genetics actually works; nearly all of what is known about it just involves how it is passed on, what composes it, and what the effects of it are. If this were somehow true, then theoretically, people who move from one country to another country that speaks a different language should have children who are not as fluent as the ancestrally rooted children, which I do not believe proves true.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Thu Sep 11, 2003 5:32 am

From David Crystal's The Cambridge Encylopedia of Language, pg 33.<br /><br />The distinctive European distribution of such sounds as front-rounded vowels, affricates, and dental fricatives has been studied from a genetic point of view. The geneticist C. D. Darlington (1903- ) proposed in the 1940s that the genetic composition of a community would partly determine its preferences for types of sound. The maps show the distribution of dental fricatives in western Europe (above, left), and the frequency with which the O blood-group gene is distributed in the population (below, left). There is an intriguing correlation: in populations where fewer than 60% have the gene, there is no history of these sounds; and in those where more than 65% have the gene, the sounds are well represented. Unfortunately, proposals of this kind have not been followed up, and remain only suggestive. Social explanations of such distributions are currently felt to be far more likely. (After L. F. Brosnahan, 1961.)
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby klewlis » Thu Sep 11, 2003 5:40 am

[quote author=benissimus link=board=6;threadid=614;start=0#5749 date=1063258179]<br />I can't imagine how somehow speaking and knowing a certain language would influence your genetic material in the slightest. It is a fact however that very little is understood about how genetics actually works; nearly all of what is known about it just involves how it is passed on, what composes it, and what the effects of it are. If this were somehow true, then theoretically, people who move from one country to another country that speaks a different language should have children who are not as fluent as the ancestrally rooted children, which I do not believe proves true.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Really, *anything* can affect a group's genetic makeup if given enough time... natural selection ensures that. <br /><br />However, I believe tdominus did not mean that, but rather the other way around--that your genetic makeup (translated to physical characteristics) makes certain things easier or more difficult, and the group will choose the easier. Like he said, if the shape of your mouth favours certain sounds, those certain sounds are more likely to appear in your language, and languages with the same types of sounds will be easier to pronounce... it certainly is plausible.<br /><br />But of course Chomsky says that all babies are born with an inherent sense of universal grammar, which is why they are able to pick up any language in the world, as long as they are immersed in it at a young age. :)<br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Thu Sep 11, 2003 5:40 am

[quote author=benissimus link=board=6;threadid=614;start=0#5749 date=1063258179]<br />I can't imagine how somehow speaking and knowing a certain language would influence your genetic material in the slightest. <br />[snip]<br />If this were somehow true, then theoretically, people who move from one country to another country that speaks a different language should have children who are not as fluent as the ancestrally rooted children, which I do not believe proves true.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />It would be the other way round, surely; if there is any affect at all it would be that genes influence language ability. As you say, however, children brought up in a different linquistic environment to their parents' don't seem to suffer from any difficulties.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 7:53 am

[quote author=bingley link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5753 date=1063258839]<br />It would be the other way round, surely; if there is any affect at all it would be that genes influence language ability. As you say, however, children brought up in a different linquistic environment to their parents' don't seem to suffer from any difficulties.<br />[/quote]<br />Yeah, that is my view. Can we say that any degree of aesthetics is genetic? Certainly animals other than humans have genetic preferences for certain sounds and colours. I believe it is true for humans too, and I don't think it is too much a jump of logic to say that it may differ by race. Perhaps one group would prefer one sound to another.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Thu Sep 11, 2003 8:21 am

I don't know. I read somewhere quite recently that when you get down to the genetic level, the concept of race doesn't really apply. It's much more of a social category than a genetic one.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby benissimus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 8:39 am

Ah, but races define the largest amount of differences between people of distant regions, so I think it is rather pertinent in this case.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Thu Sep 11, 2003 9:09 am

IIRC the article was saying that groups from different parts of the world who we might assign to different races have turned out to be more closely related according to their DNA than they are with their neighbours who we might say were of the same race. <br /><br />Similarly, the relationships between some species of animals that have been placed as only distantly related on the basis of bone structure and other features have turned out to be more closely related according to their DNA.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Thu Sep 11, 2003 11:59 am

[quote author=klewlis link=board=6;threadid=614;start=0#5752 date=1063258804]<br /><br />But of course Chomsky says that all babies are born with an inherent sense of universal grammar, which is why they are able to pick up any language in the world, as long as they are immersed in it at a young age. :)<br /><br />[/quote]<br /><br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 1:03 pm

[quote author=bingley link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5769 date=1063271354]<br />IIRC the article was saying that groups from different parts of the world who we might assign to different races have turned out to be more closely related according to their DNA than they are with their neighbours who we might say were of the same race. <br /><br />Similarly, the relationships between some species of animals that have been placed as only distantly related on the basis of bone structure and other features have turned out to be more closely related according to their DNA. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />That indeed is the view promoted by many modern-day academics. But I think it misses the point. (For good or bad, they are motivated by marxist economic views which state that material culture, not genetics, is the cause of different human behaviours). Race is a categorisation, not a particular gene or material thing. So too the concept of species, but in my view that is not to say that cats and dogs are the same thing, nor even that a german shephard is identical to a border collie. :) In humans, for example, asians tend to be much more likely than northern europeans to be lactose intolerant. The sum of all such differences, physical and mental, we may call race.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby benissimus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 2:08 pm

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5773 date=1063281573]<br /><br /><br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />No. Just... no.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Thu Sep 11, 2003 2:19 pm

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5773 date=1063281573]<br /><br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />I think the theory is not that the babbling is snippets of vocabulary from every language but that the baby is trying out different linguistically possible sounds and then narrowing down to the sounds it hears around it as it gains more control over the various speech organs. Just think how difficult it is to reliably reproduce sounds in a foreign language which aren't in your own. Most people never do after a certain age, which is why they have foreign accents.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby klewlis » Thu Sep 11, 2003 2:21 pm

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5773 date=1063281573]<br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />That's not possible. It's not possible on a genetic level, since the child does not contain all of the information necessary to accomplish such a feat. It's also not possible on a social level, since a child is not exposed to all languages. Nature and nurture both out. The only thing left is mysticism and personally, this "theory" is not feasible in the slightest. :)<br /><br />a baby's babbling is no different from him swinging his arms and legs around in the crib... he's simply trying out new things and seeing what works. eventually he starts to work these into coherent actions and sounds... it's all just part of the process.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Thu Sep 11, 2003 3:03 pm

[quote author=bingley link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5797 date=1063289959]<br />I think the theory is not that the babbling is snippets of vocabulary from every language but that the baby is trying out different linguistically possible sounds and then narrowing down to the sounds it hears around it as it gains more control over the various speech organs. Just think how difficult it is to reliably reproduce sounds in a foreign language which aren't in your own. Most people never do after a certain age, which is why they have foreign accents.<br />[/quote]<br />Yeah, this is the theory. :)
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Thu Sep 11, 2003 11:02 pm

[quote author=benissimus link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5793 date=1063289323]<br />[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5773 date=1063281573]<br /><br /><br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />No. Just... no.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />That was my response, too. It didn't make any sense. Interesting, but not sensible.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Fri Sep 12, 2003 2:54 am

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5852 date=1063321341]<br />[quote author=benissimus link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5793 date=1063289323]<br />[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5773 date=1063281573]<br /><br /><br />I heard somewhere that what we take for a baby's "babbling" is in fact merely pieces and snippets from every language in the world, and as it grows older, it retains and adds to its vocabulary of the language it hears spoken aroung it. <br /><br />It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I believe it. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />No. Just... no.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />That was my response, too. It didn't make any sense. Interesting, but not sensible. <br />[/quote]<br /><br />As bingley pointed out, the theory is that babies produce sounds that occur in every language, and then later only produce those which occur in the languages by which the baby is surrounded. It's not that they know the languages, just that they happen to produce all the sounds that occur in human languages.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Fri Sep 12, 2003 3:36 am

>> It's not that they know the languages, just that they happen to produce all the sounds that occur in human languages. <<<br /><br />It's not that they happen to pronounce all the sounds that occur in human languages, it's because they produce those sounds that they are found in human languages. A sound that babies couldn't or didn' make would only last one generation.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby tdominus » Fri Sep 12, 2003 4:17 am

[quote author=bingley link=board=6;threadid=614;start=15#5864 date=1063337802]<br />>> It's not that they know the languages, just that they happen to produce all the sounds that occur in human languages. <<<br /><br />It's not that they happen to pronounce all the sounds that occur in human languages, it's because they produce those sounds that they are found in human languages. A sound that babies couldn't or didn' make would only last one generation.<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Yeah, good point. Naturally a sound that cannot be spoken would not occur in languages. I wonder, though, if all babies have equal capabilities, or if some can produce sounds that others can't.<br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Fri Sep 12, 2003 4:41 am

I expect so. That's probably the explanation for some speech defects.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Carola » Fri Sep 12, 2003 6:52 am

I don't think your background really has any effect on the ability to learn a language. Living in a country where there are a lot of people who don't come from an English speaking background (they are from SE Asia, China, Africa, middle East) it is very common to hear parents speaking to their children in their native language and the children (who were born here) replying in English - and with an Australian accent! As long as the children are mixing with other English speaking children from an early age they soon learn to speak like their peers. I often hear people say that they used to be able to speak their parents' language but after the parents died and they were no longer using it, they have forgotten a lot of the vocabulary etc.
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:22 pm

I think it's a shame that so much is being lost in the way of language and vocabulary. If we aren't careful the whole world will start speaking nothing but English, with a hint of Spanish, French and German-and why in the world is English the most commonly spoken language? You would have thought that they would have picked a language that the native speakers could at least understand. ;) <br /><br />Keesa
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby klewlis » Fri Sep 12, 2003 2:35 pm

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=30#5886 date=1063369376]<br />I think it's a shame that so much is being lost in the way of language and vocabulary. If we aren't careful the whole world will start speaking nothing but English, with a hint of Spanish, French and German-and why in the world is English the most commonly spoken language? You would have thought that they would have picked a language that the native speakers could at least understand. ;) <br /><br />Keesa<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Even though many, many people *learn* english, that does not make it their first language, and nothing is being lost. English is only the lingua franca of today (as Greek was at one point) and eventually some other language will replace it as such. The only reason english is popular now is because english-speaking countries are driving world economy and politics (or attempting to anyway ;)<br /><br />Carola: that is very common here in canada, too. Most immigrant children are bilingual. My little nephew, who is 19 months and whose parents are both native english speakers, is just starting to talk coherently and he is going to be bilingual--his dad speaks to him only in french and his mom speaks to him only in english, so he is learning both from birth!
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Keesa » Fri Sep 12, 2003 10:10 pm

[quote author=klewlis link=board=6;threadid=614;start=30#5898 date=1063377344]<br /> he is going to be bilingual--his dad speaks to him only in french and his mom speaks to him only in english, so he is learning both from birth!<br />[/quote]<br /><br />What do his parents speak to each other in? :D<br /><br />Keesa
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby klewlis » Fri Sep 12, 2003 10:46 pm

english :)
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby bingley » Sat Sep 13, 2003 1:05 am

[quote author=Keesa link=board=6;threadid=614;start=30#5886 date=1063369376]<br />I think it's a shame that so much is being lost in the way of language and vocabulary. If we aren't careful the whole world will start speaking nothing but English, with a hint of Spanish, French and German-and why in the world is English the most commonly spoken language? You would have thought that they would have picked a language that the native speakers could at least understand. ;) <br /><br />Keesa<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Add Chinese and Arabic to the probable survivors. But here's a link to information on the Endangered Language Repository:<br /><br />http://www.yourdictionary.com/elr/index.html<br /><br />From an article in the LA Times quoted there:<br /><br />By the most reliable estimates, more than half of the world's 6,500 languages may be extinct by the end of this century. <br />
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby benissimus » Sat Sep 13, 2003 1:59 am

Wah, they forgot a lot of languages just inside of Europe! >:(<br />It's a shame that Frisian is on the endangered list. :( Old Frisian is almost entirely intelligible to an English speaker... quite remarkable!
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Emma_85 » Sat Sep 13, 2003 9:46 am

Cornish is dead :'(
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Re:Language Heritage

Postby Episcopus » Sat Sep 13, 2003 12:03 pm

[quote author=Emma_85 link=board=6;threadid=614;start=30#5965 date=1063446380]<br />Cornish is dead :'(<br />[/quote]<br /><br />I met some Breton people on a ferry coming back from a traditional festival in Cornwall. They spoke french, cornish and Breton. One of them was a music professor and they had been teaching cornish people to play the traditional cornish/breton music. I knew not what "Cornish" was in french, so they just communicated thus "La langue...Cornwall...Je la parle."<br />That is quite rare...seldom can a cornish speaker be seen in cornwall!<br /><br />
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