Vanishing Languages

[When we come across discussions, reports, and events regarding vanishing languages, we who are vulnerable to losing our languages, albeit slowly, tend to think or behave like it’s not going to happen to us. Yet we continue to behave in ways that actually accelerate the imminent loss of our languages: we crave to learn other languages at the expense of our own — instead of learning other global languages and other skills/knowledge using our mother tongues as a bridge; we are sometimes ashamed to speak our own languages like they were a badge of dishonor, an indication of lack of intelligence or social decorum, etc. Well, pause a while and think about the serious implications of losing a language — the following article is rich food for thought. — Joe Padre]


Russ Tymer

By Russ Rymer

Photograph by Lynn Johnson


A last speaker of Chemehuevi

Vanishing Voices


One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent?

Tuvan: The Compassion of Khoj Özeeri

One morning in early fall Andrei Mongush and his parents began preparations for supper, selecting a black-faced, fat-tailed sheep from their flock and rolling it onto its back on a tarp outside their livestock paddock. The Mongush family’s home is on the Siberian taiga, at the edge of the endless steppes, just over the horizon from Kyzyl, the capital of the Republic of Tuva, in the Russian Federation. They live near the geographic center of Asia, but linguistically and personally, the family inhabits a borderland, the frontier between progress and tradition. Tuvans are historically nomadic herders, moving their aal—an encampment of yurts—and their sheep and cows and reindeer from pasture to pasture as the seasons progress. The elder Mongushes, who have returned to their rural aal after working in the city, speak both Tuvan and Russian. Andrei and his wife also speak English, which they are teaching themselves with pieces of paper labeled in English pasted onto seemingly every object in their modern kitchen in Kyzyl. They work as musicians in the Tuvan National Orchestra, an ensemble that uses traditional Tuvan instruments and melodies in symphonic arrangements. Andrei is a master of the most characteristic Tuvan music form: throat singing, or khöömei.

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The Dialectology of Cebuano

Divine Angeli P. Endriga

By Divine Angeli P. Endriga
University of Asia and the Pacific
University of the Philippines-Diliman

Paper presented at the
1st Philippine 
Conference Workshop
 MotherTongue-Based Multilingual Education
held February 18-20, 2010
at Cagayan de Oro City.

ABSTRACT: This paper is a description of the dialectology of Cebuano spoken in the provinces of Bohol, Cebu and Davao. It notes the similarities and differences between the dialects with regards to phonology (only consonants and vowels are included) and other constructions relevant to the study. Most of the data were gathered from Cebuano speakers from the respective provinces.

The author hopes that this study will be helpful in writing materials, to decide on a standard orthography etc. It will also help in understanding the nuances of Cebuano, so it can be taught easily and facilitate easier shift from the mother tongue into Filipino and English when students reach the stage of learning them.

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DO NOT Leave Your Language Alone

“Languages are increasingly viewed as scarce national resources,” wrote Joshua A. Fishman, noted linguist and author. “Speech and writing communities the world over are not only expected to exert themselves on behalf of their own languages, but to feel remiss if they fail to do so when their language resources are threatened.”  He views languages as “not unlike flora and fauna, agricultural or environmental resources, and all other such improvable or alterable resources whose quality can be influenced by planned human intervention (emphasis supplied).”

Hence, Fishman’s admonition:  “DO NOT Leave Your Language Alone“, which is the title of one of his important books.

The central idea is that if you don’t take care of your own language, nobody else will.  “DO NOT Leave Your Language Alone” is Fishman’s own thinking on counteracting what he noted as the benign or aggressive indifference of the powers-that-be toward minority languages.

“The most general reason for the neglect of reversing language shift (RLS),” notes Fishman in his book, Reversing Language Shift, “is probably the fact that RLS is an activity of minorities, frequently powerless, unpopular with outsiders and querulous amongst themselves; it is an activity that is very often unsuccessful and that strikes many intelligent laymen and otherwise intelligent social scientists as ‘unnatural’, i.e., as counter to some supposedly ‘natural’ drift of historical events or the ‘obvious’ direction of social change.  It is hard for self-serving mainstream intellectual spokesmen and institutions to be sympathetic to the lingering, cantankerous, neither fully alive nor fully dead quality of many (perhaps most) efforts on behalf of receding minority languages (and the majority of sidestream scholars too are ultimately dependent on the mainstream for their perspectives, if not for their very livelihoods)…”

So, to all the Ilocanos in La Union, and the rest of Ilocandia, and to all the others whose ethnic languages are threatened by Tagalog:  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR LANGUAGE ALONE!

McEachern: Why Tagalog?

HOW did Tagalog become the basis of the national language?

I went home and looked the history up. Just out of curiosity.

During the Spanish time government bureaucracy was conducted mostly in Spanish.

However, given the persistently low level of knowledge of Spanish among the commoners (partly due to the lack of universal education until very late in the Spanish era), many of the Spanish authorities—especially the religious sector—learned Philippine languages. Around their main settlement, Manila, this was Tagalog. But in other parts of the archipelago, they learned the other languages too, which is why families of Spanish descent, like the Ortegas of La Union, can speak Ilokano today. Continue reading

La Union is in the Heart: Firth’s Response

Firth McEachern

Hi Joe,

Yes, your suggestions all align with our intentions. The ordinance will be multisectoral, and will hopefully follow the Catalan example closely. As you pointed out, education is one of many sectors that must be addressed, at a serious policy level, to reverse language decline.

The Technical Working Group will be having its first meeting with the Provincial Board committees of Education, Laws, and Tourism/Information later this month, and then will be having many more committee meetings to invite the various sectors affected by the media to discuss the provisions for the proposed ordinance, how it may be implemented, hear feedback on the feasibility of complying to certain provisions, and making revisions. Hopefully it will not be too watered down. If and when it is passed, the next question is: will it be enforced or will it join a graveyard of many legislations?



McEachern’s observations re our language attitudes

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 8:19 AM
From: “ched arzadon” <>

The articles, “Diversity shock“, “Quest for a multi-culture“, “Losing the mother tongue“, “Customer is always right, right?“, “Kankana-ey being replaced by Iloko?”, and “No longer cool to speak IloKo?“, were forwarded to me by Atty Manuel Faelnar. I found out later that they were written by Firth McEachern, a young Canadian Harvard graduate who is presently stationed at La Union. I don’t normally look kindly at outsiders/foreigners who criticize us. But I would take this one as an exception because I know that the writer’s intention is not to put us down but to help us by denaturalizing things that we thoughtlessly do or say on a daily basis.

The articles should make us (especially Ilocanos) pause and ponder.  I used to think (quite to my shame) that a language is just a commodity that we can use, replace or dispose of. It was actually not too long ago that I came to realize that my language is a major part of my soul and identity. And so when I let go of my language, a part of me dies too. This is the other side of MTBMLE which is not simply an instrumental view of language as something that mediates learning, but something that defines who we are.

No longer cool to speak Iloko

By Firth McEachern

“ANO ang paborito mong pagkain?” the emcee asked.

“Pizza po,” said the little girl.

“Ayan! Masarap!”

I guess they think Ilokano is not “cool” or “fancy” enough for a Little Miss Barangay contest, I thought, as I watched the event. Don’t they realize that Ilokano is just as rich and old a language as Tagalog? And don’t they realize that by excluding the local tongue from high profile events like Little Miss contests, they further undermine its prestige?

I turned to the gentleman to my right, the Hon. Vice-Governor Aureo Q. Nisce, and said, “I’m sad that these little girls are being forced to answer in Tagalog. The emcee should set an example and speak Tagalog AND Ilokano interchangeably, so that the girls know it’s acceptable to answer in either. Continue reading