Babbler # 9831
posted 07 February 2008 03:21 PM
As the spoken language died, so did the stories of tricky Creator-Raven and the magical loon, of giant animals and tiny homunculi with fish-spears no bigger than a matchstick. People forgot why “hat” was the same word as “hammer”, or why the word for a leaf, kultahl, was also the word for a feather, as though deciduous trees and birds shared one organic life. They lost the sense that lumped apples, beads and pills together as round, foreign, possibly deceiving things. They neglected the taboo that kept fish and animals separate, and would not let fish-skin and animal hide be sewn in the same coat; and they could not remember exactly why they built little wooden huts over gravestones, as if to give more comfortable shelter to the dead.
You can probably guess what that's about: another last speaker of a language passing away, with her "universe", as this piece puts it. It's a good one, the piece, in the Economist of all places: http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10640514. Goes on not just about vocabulary but about the ways of thinking and seeing...and an appreciative look at the life of this lady, Marie Smith.
My point -- why this is in Culture -- is wondering about the significance to our, broad "culture" of the loss of opportunities to appreciate something of other cultures, as these languages "die". Such access is huge, I think, in the benefits of living in this broad, Western (for lack of a better term) culture.
I've met many people, learning much, and it's a shame I'll never meet her, but that's a necessary shame. Losing the very language is not necessary.
From: South Seas, ex Montreal | Registered: Jul 2005
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