Re: Last speaker of Bo died

From: Marion Gunn (
Date: Fri Feb 12 2010 - 08:37:49 CST

  • Next message: Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven: "Unicode chess"

    PS. to last wk's correspondence below, as we come to another Friday and
    end of another working week, so I'm pasing this query back to the
    Unicode Consortium via list <> to request a
    quantitative reply re "the actual number of American languages whose
    full character sets are currently supported by Unicode and an inventory
    of the names of those languages" (which stats I'll be sure to fwd to
    EL-L once I receive them).

    Thanks, Ed, for the approximate figures you supply below, to which I am
    appending a more detailed answer I received via the

    Mine was only a quantitive question, seeking only a straight answer list
    <>. However, so much more has emerged since, such as
    the msg below, which I am grateful to see, because, for any language to
    be (made) safe, it needs to be (made) safe in its own land, which fact
    Professor Campbell's msg below underlines so well, seeing time is not on
    the side of those American language communities which are fighting for
    survival as we speak.

    As one NSAI advisor whose interest in ISO 10646 goes back 20 years and
    more, I have sort of taken it for granted that all of the characters
    need to write American languages (both living and dead), have by now
    been safely encoded in that Standard and, if so (even if not), that the
    Unicode Consortium can supply a final figure for the actual number of
    American languages it currently serves.

    As to the number of unwriten American languages (both living and dead),
    some approximation to that question's answer would be in US Govt
    documents about the clearances or in records of the US Library of
    Congress dealing with Americans displaced or otherwise disempowered by
    colonial action and all that followed after, similarly to the Highland
    clearances on this side of the Atlantic, but a start is to list the
    names of all of the American languages whose writing systems are
    currently fully supported by Unicode, or not, as the case may be
    (someone said it doesn't support Mayan writing, for starters, but I do
    not know whether that is true).


    Scríobh Ed Trager:
    > Hi, Marion,
    > Yes, 300 is the approximate number for North America. If you include
    > Meso and South America, I think it goes up to around 800.
    > For North America, only about 30 survive. But I'm not sure how
    > healthy those 30 are. Some are doing fine. Others I don't know.
    > Unfortunately, I really don't know as much about the situation in
    > North America as I would like to.
    > Maybe someday I will have more time to investigate and learn more!
    > Best Wishes -- Ed
    Lyle Campbell wrote:
    > Here is one answer to the question in a recent interchange of how many
    > American Indian languages there are/were:
    > When Europeans arrived, there were c. 280 languages in the US, 51
    > families (+isolates). All the c.150 surviving languages are endangered.
    > In North America (US & Canada), of 312 known languages, 123 are
    > extinct (40%). Of 58 families (+isolates), 29 are extinct (50%); of 26
    > isolates, 20 are extinct (77%). Many others will soon follow.
    > South America: 112 families and isolates, 53 families and 59
    > isolates. c.420 languages are still spoken; there were once 1,491
    > (according to Loukotka 1968), 72% extinct.
    > Since American Indian languages were also mentioned in global
    > comparison, let me add a bit more.
    > North America's 180 language families (+isolates) [58 North America,
    > 10 Central America, 112 South America] = 51% of the linguistic
    > diversity of the world, c.350 families (+isolates). The world's total
    > number of language isolates: 127; in the Americas: 83 (65% of the
    > world's isolates).
    > America's proportion of the world's linguistic diversity: 51% (180 of
    > the world's total of c.350 families (+isolates)).
    > More broadly, already 106 of the approximately 350 independent
    > language families (including isolates) of the world are extinct, 30%.
    > These figures are very misleading, however, in a significant sense: of
    > the c. 150 surviving American Indian languages in the US, only 20 are
    > being learned actively by children in traditional transmission, and
    > even for many of these 20, every year fewer and fewer children are
    > learning them. Very shortly, this set of numbers and percentages will
    > change dramatically (unless revitalization efforts are successful) ...
    > a tragedy painful beyond contemplation.
    > Best,
    > Lyle
    >> Incorrect assumption. Straight question. To which, by nature, a
    >> straight answer is asked.
    >> mg
    >> Scríobh Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven:
    >>> -On [20100205 12:01], Marion Gunn (
    >>> <>) wrote:
    >>>> American languages are the most obvious examples, Jeroen. How many
    >>>> American
    >>>> languages were/are there?
    >>> I assume the question is rhetorical in nature?
    > --
    > *Dr. Lyle Campbell,*
    > Professor of Linguistics, Director, Center for American Indian Languages
    > Dept. of Linguistics, University of Utah, LNCO 2300
    > 255 S. Central Campus Drive,
    > Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0492 USA
    > Tel. 801-581-3441 (my Ling. office), 801-587-0716 (my CAIL office)
    > 801-581-8047 (Dept. of Linguistics), 801-587-0720 (CAIL), Fax 801-585-7351

    Marion Gunn * eGteo (Estab.1991)
    27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn, Baile an
    Bhóthair, An Charraig Dhubh,
    Co. Átha Cliath, Éire/Ireland
    * * *

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