Friday, April 15, 2011

Language spoken by only two people at risk of dying out as they won't talk to each other

The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it's at risk of extinction. There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other.

Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other's company.

"They don't have a lot in common," says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco. Segovia, he says, can be "a little prickly" and Velazquez, who is "more stoic," rarely likes to leave his home.

Segovia, who denied any active animosity with Velazquez, retained the habit of speaking Ayapaneco by conversing with his brother until he died about a decade ago. Segovia still uses it with his son and wife who understand him, but cannot produce more than a few words themselves. Velazquez reputedly does not regularly talk to anybody in his native tongue anymore.


Mark said...

Surely the language is already dead. Isn't the definition of a dead language one in which it is no longer spoken by anyone as their main language? What this language is in danger of becoming now, is extinct.

Hickory Johnson said...

The same thing is happening in China and other parts of the world where televison signals now carry popular dialects while other less well known dialects slowly die out. I suspect this has been going on since the beginnings of man.

India has about 2000 different dialects and often people not only in the same village but even those "across the street" speak different dialects.

Anonymous said...

even if they did speak to each other, how would that help?

Anonymous said...

"I'll never speak to you. Not even if you were the last person on earth to speak Ayapaneco!"

Anonymous said...

Whether they talk to each other is not relevant to the language issue...they need to talk to OTHER people. Duh