Friday, May 23, 2008

A language dies when you don't have children learning it at home

"A language dies when you don't have children picking it up in the home," says Scott DeLancey, a University of Oregon linguist.

Here in America's Northwest, there are signs policymakers are beginning to take some notice. Last May, the Oregon State Legislature passed a resolution honoring Ms. Johnson's grandmother, Gladys Thompson, for her efforts to teach Kiksht and "her dedication to the preservation of Indian ways."

In 2006, the National Science Foundation awarded $5 million to support efforts to digitally record more than 60 endangered languages around the world. Included was $263,000 to document stories and conversations in Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, spoken along the Alexander Archipelago in Alaska and islands off British Columbia.

"At least it's a validation of the implications of what is to be lost," says Patricia Shaw, director of the First Nations Languages Program in Vancouver, British Columbia.

...Read more aboutPacific Northwest indigenous languages

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