Is Preservation of Local Languages Clinging to the Past?

Written by Dyami Millarson

It is asserted that those who wish to preserve local languages are clinging to the past. Speakers of minority languages would, therefore, be old-fashioned. However, speaking and transmitting local languages is no more clinging to the past than using and transmitting national languages or even world languages.

All living languages on this planet are linked to the past in one way or another. Languages do not just emerge at once in the present, but they take time to develop their distinct features; each language has a history, and so it is really, as mentioned before, no more true to say that local languages are clinging to the past than national languages.

It is, at the same time, true that small languages have a tendency towards linguistic conservatism, but this is to be seen as a curiosity rather than an impediment. Local languages have the same evolutionary potential as all other languages. When languages receive higher prestige for one or another reason, it does not preclude that small languages cannot evolve or adapt to suit contemporary needs and tastes.

We demonstrate with our blog that the language of Schiermonnikoog which has approximately 20-30 speakers, the language of Hindeloopen which has approximately 300 speakers and the language of the East of Terschelling which has approximately 100 speakers can be used as internet languages.

We can communicate using these small languages online in the same way as large languages such as English, Spanish and Chinese. This is due to inherent adaptability; there is no contemporary human condition that languages can theoretically not adapt to. Whenever something new is needed, it can be created building further upon the existing system that was inherited. Languages can add new parts to their existing system to make up for deficits that are experienced under new conditions.

31 comments

  1. I love languages, and I want to know more about the endangered languages you’re promoting here on the blog. Language is a reflection of who we are, how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us. (I’m a big supporter of the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis that language actually serves to create our culture.) If we lose a language, we not only lose those words, but an entire history. As a starting point, where should I go to learn more about Schiermonnikoog – The Island of the Gray Monks?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Judith,

      Thank you so much for leaving an inspiring comment here, and we hope to give you reason to contribute more such comments to our blog in order to inspire us and others.

      I am currently in Germany on my way to a conference in Eiderstedt about North Frisian minority tongues. I share your enthusiasm about languages, and I believe we can exchange a lot about our interests. Feel free to mail me: polyglotstudy@gmail.com

      You may start learning the language of Schiermonnikoog on our blog. If you leave comments about what you are curious about with regards to the language of Schiermonnikoog, I can write articles to reply your to your comments. I can adapt my articles to suit your needs/interests. Your comments can help me think of what content is interesting to share on the blog.

      You may check out our current articles about the language of Schiermonnikoog and I encourage you to leave comments so you can study the language in an interactive manner; I believe the best way to learn is through interaction.

      This is what we have right now:

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/the-names-of-the-language-of-schiermonnikoog/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/what-i-learned-about-eilauners-from-the-augusteijn-family/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/primary-and-modal-auxiliary-verbs-in-schiermonnikoogs-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/past-participle-of-auxiliary-verbs-in-schiermonnikoogs-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/inversion-in-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/when-to-use-eilauner-and-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/interrogative-adverbs-in-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/personal-pronouns-in-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/possessive-determiners-adjectives-in-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/the-pronominal-adverb-der-in-eilauners/

      https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/how-to-use-gesicht-in-the-language-of-schiermonnikoog/

      I hope this helps and I am really looking forward to hearing from you again!

      Dyami Millarson

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for the links! I will definitely be checking them out and learning all I can. I’ve learned a “smattering” of Dutch over the years, and I’m fascinated by the prospect of learning and helping to preserve a minority language. Thank you for all you’re doing. I’m off to follow links now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Judith,

        I feel so lucky and honoured to help you with realising your dream.

        I agree completely with your reason to learn the language of Schiermonnikoog. Furthermore, it is the objective of our blog to spark people people’s interest in learning this minority tongue.

        By learning the pristine language of Schiermonnikoog, you help us in our efforts to conserve the distinct culture and history of Schiermonnikoog.

        I feel enthusiastic and inspired since you are a new person who is starting to pick up the language. Exactly what is needed at this point. And if succesful, you will be one of the few chosen ones!

        I just arrived at my destination in Germany and I am about to have dinner: Ik hew húnger. I’m hungry.

        I am really excited about aiding your progress through friendly interaction!

        Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • Which literally translates as “I have hunger,” right? Is there somewhere that I can find info on conjugating verbs? I’m sure “hewwe” is irregular, but is there a regular pattern for conjugating other verbs?

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are totally right! I will plan to write to write some articles for you about regular verbs when I have returned home from the North Frisian conference in Eiderstedt. I will return home 2 December. Does that sound good to you? Stay tuned!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is in meujen meurn hier. It is a beautiful morning here.

        Before the conference starts, I can give you a paradigm of a regular weak e-verb and a regular weak je-verb.

        Je-verb

        Present

        Ik swúegje, I work hard.
        Dò swúegeste, you work hard.
        Hy swúeget, he works hard.
        Wy swúegje, we work hard.
        Etc.

        Past

        Ik swúege, I worked.
        Dò swúegeste, you worked.
        Hy swúege, he worked.
        Wy swúegen, we worked.
        Etc.

        Present perfect

        Ik hew swúege, I have worked.
        Dò heste swúege, you have worked.
        Hy het swúege, he has worked.
        Wy hewwe swúege, we have worked.
        Etc.

        E-verb

        Present

        Ik mien it net kwaid, I do not mean it badly.
        Dò mienste it net kwaid, etc.
        Hy mient it net kwaid, etc.
        Wy miene it net kwaid, etc.
        Etc.

        Past

        Ik miende it net kwaid, I didn’t mean it badly.
        Dò miendeste it net kwaid, etc.
        Hy miende it net kwaid, etc.
        Wy mienden it net kwaid, etc.
        Etc.

        Present perfect

        Ik hew it net kwaid miend, I haven’t meant it badly.
        Dò heste it net kwaid miend, etc.
        Hy het it net kwaid miend, etc.
        Wy hewwe it net kwaid miend, etc.
        Etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Perfect! This will keep me busy for a few days. Be watching for an email from me soon with questions and comments. I am really enjoying this new language study, and I am glad to be part of the effort to preserve it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exciting! I am looking forward to your unique e-mail, we’ll be in touch. I just had an interesting interview with the Danish media about minority tongues, and I briefly mentioned that I had met a person, that’s YOU, on my blog because of interest in the language of Schiermonnikoog and this person, that’s YOU again, demonstrated my point there is worldwide interest in learning such a small critically endagered language. I said in the interview that globalisation and the internet may actually save these languages for the future! So I’m really excited about your e-mail and I hope you feel profoundly motivated now to learn to ACTUALLY speak it with me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • How exciting to be part of this project to save Eilauners and other minority languages. I have really enjoyed your messages, and I’m building a vocabulary list from what I’ve gleaned from them. Please bear with me as I struggle at putting words together into sentences. I may be wrong a lot of times, but my feeling is that languages are for communication — not for speaking only in grammatically correct sentences. Hopefully even when I get a few things wrong, you’ll understand what I’m trying to communicate and can help me improve. As before, ‘k bin slim blyd mooi dyn hilp.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! Nice to hear you genuinely enjoy our exchange so far, it has given me inspiring energy during the conference and I am delighted to know you have taken upon yourself the wonderful initiative to start building a vocabulary list.

        I am a very practical person, I believe in actions, and so I agree wholeheartedly with your views on grammar and communication. You may also read about my views in this recent book review:

        https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/the-vivacity-of-minority-languages-untamed-and-self-regulatory/

        Practice makes perfect. Languages are learned through a combination of trial and error, imitation, and self-correction. I do not mind if you make mistakes. It is human to err.

        However, it is essential to be eager to learn from mistakes and to be willing to notice such mistakes yourself. I trust you are your own best critic, and you know best how to achieve self-improvement because you know your inner processes best.

        I believe in your individual development, and so I will focus my energy on providing you with the materials you need so you can succeed relying on your own strength.

        After all, you do not need me to correct you, but you need me for good advice. This is why our interaction is vital during the learning process; I can provide you with the correct information by giving my suggestions without resorting to criticising your grammar or the like.

        It is based purely on human trust, you know 100% for sure it is simply my goodwill to share information with you and so it is merely natural that you are eager to adopt what I say. Correction scares away, good advice attracts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I really appreciate the articles on your blog. I enjoy reading and translating as much as I can. I’m following your link now to read, and I will look up Lane Greene’s book. With luck I might be able to track it down through our library system.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That motivates me to write more! The conference has ended now and I will be returning back home after lunch. While travelling, I will have plenty of time to think about the articles that I am going to write.
        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your first sentence looks like a great start, you’re close. I have a suggestion to make it sound more fluent: It is n’t maklik om Eilauners sprakke tò leren. It isn’t easy to learn to speak the language of Schiermonnikoog.
        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great! Thank you… no idea yet how to say “thanks”, so maybe you can fill me in on that. I will guess that it’s similar to dank/danke. I can basically understand what you’ve written (without the translation) but I can’t quite grasp the syntax. This is going to be a very interesting language to learn.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome!

        1. Showing gratitude is a culturally complicated issue. When you want to express gratitude in the language of Lytje Pole (local name for Schiermonnikoog), it is best to describe that feeling with a full sentence. So it is essential to ‘paraphrase’. You cannot translate English or Dutch concepts literally, but learning this language requires you to adapt to the traditional culture of Schiermonnikoog.
        Full sentences tell a lot more about culturally agreed upon social status (e.g. the elderly are tradirionally highly respected in the culture of Schiermonnikoog and are seen as respectable authorities on oral lore while they may know old poems and such).
        You may say to an elder whom you respect: Ik betankje jy feur je hilp. I thank you for your help. (Jy/je is a honorific.)
        You may say to an equal (probably a same-age person) or someone who should respect you (probably a younger person): Ik betankje dy feur dyn hilp. I thank thee for thy help.
        You can also say: Ik bin dy/je (heel) tankber. I am (very) grateful to thee/you.
        Of course you can also express it in other smart and creative ways: Wat hie ik sonder dy/jy motten! What should I have done without you! Hò hie ik eut Eilauns lere kúed as ik dy/jy net haun hie? How could I ever have learned the tongue of Schiermonnikoog if I had not had you? Wat in gelok dat ik dy/jy hew om my tò hilpen mooi deze taal! What a luck that I have you to learn this language! Ik bin sò blyd dat ‘ste my hilpe wotte/watte mooi it leren fan de meuje taal fan Lytje Pole. I am so happy that you want to help me learn the beautiful language of Schiermonnikoog.

        2. The Eilauner syntax is different from Dutch syntax (that you may be familiar with). The examples that I gave in the articles may already have given you this correct first impression. I recommend you to pay attention to word order with regards to verbs, especially auxiliary verbs. I will cover syntax later in my articles on the grammar of Schiermonnikoogs. I am currently chiefly concerned with documenting the morphology on the blog. But nevertheless feel free to ask specific questions regarding the syntax, I will do my best to help you wrap your mind around the syntax!

        Ik mot ne sliepe gain omdat ik heel múed bin en it is aik al lat. I need to go to bed now because I am very tired and it is also late already.

        Ik heupe mooi gauwens fan dy tò heren. I hope to hear from you soon already.

        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • I would copy and paste one of your “thank you” sentences if only I could. As it is, I can only say how thankful I am to have your help as I learn this fascinating language. Goedenacht!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Judith!

        ‘k Hew sliept as in reus. I have slept very well.

        Ik bin dy eeuwich tankber dat ‘ste deze lytje taal lere wotte omdat eeuwren net altyd it belang ynsjain hierfan. I am eternally thankful to you that you want to learn this small language because others do not always see the point of this.

        You appear very culturally sensitive, and I sense you may be hesitant about whether to use jy or dò with me. After all, this about how to treat/honour our social relationship/interaction.

        My personal language instinct is tellng me you should address me as dò in Eilauners. I am addressing you this way as well. This shows we treat each other with a sense of equality and/or familiarity, which can be interpreted as a kind of starting point or a positive wish for our friendship: Dò biste myn freeuwn omdat ‘ste mooi my Eilauns sprakke wotte. De taal fan Lytje Pole jeeuwt ús in bjaun mooineeuwr. You are my friend because you want to speak the language of Schiermonnikoog with me. The language of Lytje Pole gives a bond with each other.

        You may wish to copy and paste this positive sentence to express your gratitude from now on: Ik bin slim blyd (mooi dyn hilp). I am very happy (with your help).
        I will answer: Ik bin aik slim blyd (mooi dyn iiver). I am also very happy (with your diligence).
        The reason I suggest this manner of expressing gratitude is because it makes us think of happiness.

        Moreover, the necessity to paraphrase in this tongue shapes our perception of reality, and so this will set us free from our preconceived (English-dominated) notion of gratitude; my idea is that expressing gratitude can be a lot more colourful than a routine ‘thank you’!

        If you want to say ‘sleep well’ to me, you may say ne genacht (lit. now good night). I assume you are very familiar with basic Dutch greetings and customs. It works somewhat similar in the tongue of Schiermonnikoog, but it appears the expressions are actually rarely used and seem generally actively avoided (probably for some cultural taboo that is still somehwat obscure to me although I have a feeling or guess about why this may be the case, i.e. the islanders might consider it a foreign concept that shouldn’t influence the reality perceived by their culture, while they reject other such concepts for similar reasons).

        Respecting cultural efforts by speakers of Eilauners to conserve the construct of their own independent and separate reality that seems alien to speakers of English, you may say genacht (cf. goedenacht), ‘navend (cf. goedenavond) and gedei (cf. goedendag) in very specific situations in Eilauners. These words would originally, I believe, chiefly have been used as a courtesy for passers-by whom you were (intimately) familiar with, whence came an emotional restraint with using these. I can also imagine that the island people favoured originality traditionally and so they might not have wanted their emotional spontaneity to be constrained by standard expressions or low-emotion formulaic speech; these are very creative people, born and raised in a nature-loving Wadden island culture, and so we ought to try to respect this natural creativity when we make sentences in the language.

        There are so many intriguing aspects about this critically endangered tongue!

        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am fascinated. You slept like a giant? Interesting. I am going to email you to carry on our conversation. What keyboard language are you using to get the diacritical marks? Ik bin slim blyd mooi dyn hilp. Over veel dingen Ik bin aik lytje verward. Ik bin zo blyd dat ‘ste INTRODUCED ME oon deze taal.

        The language is fascinating, and I want to learn more about the island and its history

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am thinking about writing a series on the island and its history in Eilauners. I have historical materials that I can use for this. I may publish some information in English as well, but I want to stimulate people especially to try to read in Eilauners, no matter how daunting that may seem at first.
        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

      • I finished writing an article today in Eilauners and will publish it soon. Whenever I write an article, I can send you a vocabulary list via e-mail. It will not cover the entire vocabulary, but I will just note some interesting words for you to support your wonderful efforts.
        – Dyami Millarson

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked your post, especially the fact that the “small languages” can be used for Internet communication. Myself I would love to combine neurolinguistic methods with endangered languages to show that these languages are not stuck to the past, and that they may even be useful for modern science. I hope this project will work!

    Like

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