Saturday, August 30, 2008

One of thousands

Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round). Efforts are now under way to document the language with sound and video recordings, and to revitalise it by teaching it to children.

From Peter Austin's personal selection of ten of the thousands of languages on the brink of extinction. Austin is a linguist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The Guardian, Peter K Austin's top 10 endangered languages, August 27, 2008.