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The Kihnu dialect is Preserved on Estonia’s Mother Tongue Day: Standard Estonian is spoken by roughly 1.1 million people. Closely related to Finnish and more distantly to Hungarian, Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group, which includes about 40 languages spoken by around 20 million people that are mainly thought to have originated thousands of years ago in the Ural mountains, now in western Russia.
Latvians Reject Russian as Second Language:
Voters in Latvia on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected a plan to adopt Russian as a second official language, defeating a constitutional referendum that underscored the ethnic and political tensions that remain more than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Mark Pagel: How language transformed humanity
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of “social technology” that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
I just read this fascinating account in The Guardian, written by Stephen Pax Leonard (http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/stephen-pax-leonard), who lived with the Arctic Inugguit for one year, while learning their language and ways of life. What he discovered was a “cold heaven,” where life was stripped to its basics. This sentence, in particular, struck me: “I am a romantic, and I discovered that romantics are always disillusioned because the world is no longer how they had hoped it to be.”
Life in Greenland’s polar desert
by Stephen Pax Leonard
“For me, the appeal of the remote settlement was immediate and unforgettable. Smiley children were magnetised to the stranger and the adults invited the visitor in for a supper of polar bear or fermented little auks, followed by endless refills of black coffee… The eldest hunter in the settlement and a story-teller with whom I worked, Qaerngaq Nielsen, gave Savissivik 10 years. Climate change has meant that the settlement is almost impossible to get to by dog-sledge and there are few who wish to live in complete isolation in the 21st century with no medical facilities.”
The article, “Dealing With Regional Dialects & Languages In Global Internet Marketing” examines the advantage a global company can have by marketing itself online using local dialects.
The tricky countries are those with regional languages most marketers have not heard of. Take Spain, for instance. You shouldn’t think of the Catalan language spoken in Catalonia as a “dialect” but as a language opportunity and deal with it as such. The same is true of Basque and Galician which with Catalan are official languages of the regions they relate to.
Catalan is given an “official” status by Google too — since you can use Google’s keyword tool to check keyword search volumes in Spain. Galician and Basque are sadly not available via that route but do exist in Google Translate. A very interesting read…
Swiss Effort to Save a Language Opens a Rift: Villagers Debate Whether to Stick to Dialects of Ancient Roman Tongue or a Cobbled-Together ‘Esperanto’
ZURICH—As kids return to school in Val Müstair, high in the eastern tip of the Swiss Alps, they are also entering the front lines of a bitter battle: the fight over the future of a centuries-old Latin dialect.
The municipality (population 1,600) is a stronghold of Romansh, a language imported by Roman occupiers 2,000 years ago and still spoken by most locals. Today, its villagers are up in arms over authorities’ attempt to push a sort of Romansh Esperanto on locals—one that officials defend as the only chance to save one of the last living relics of the Latin language.
The tiff originated in 1996, when Romansh became Switzerland’s fourth official language even though only roughly 60,000 people speak it.
Standard German has been banned from Zurich, Switzerland preschools in favor of Swiss German. The outcome of the Sunday referendum was welcomed by the “Yes to dialect in the kindergarten” group that argued for the change. Swiss German, is almost unintelligible in most of Germany and remains a strong element of the Swiss identity. More here: