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How to save a language from extinction

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    Languages don't just die naturally.
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    People abandon mother tongues,
    because they're forced to.
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    Often, the pressure is political.
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    In 1892,
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    the US Army general Richard Henry Pratt
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    argued that killing indigenous cultures
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    was the only alternative
    to killing indigenous people.
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    "Kill the Indian," he said,
    "but save the man."
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    And until 1978,
    the government did just that,
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    removing indigenous children
    from their families
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    and forcing them into boarding schools
    where they were given English names
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    and punished for speaking their languages.
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    Assimilation was a complement to genocide.
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    Seven thousand languages are alive today,
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    but few are recognized
    by their own governments
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    or supported online.
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    So for people from the vast
    majority of cultures,
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    globalization remains
    profoundly alienating.
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    It means giving up your language
    for someone else's.
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    And if nothing changes,
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    as many as 3,000 languages
    could disappear in 80 years.
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    But things are changing.
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    Around the world,
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    people are reviving ancestral languages
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    and rebuilding their cultures.
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    As far as we know,
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    language reclamation began in the 1800s
    when, at a time of rising antisemitism,
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    Jewish communities looked
    to their ancestral language, Hebrew,
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    as a means of cultural revival.
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    And though it had been dormant
    for over 1,000 years,
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    it was well preserved in books
    of Jewish religion and philosophy.
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    So Jewish activists studied
    and taught it to their children,
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    raising the first native speakers
    in nearly 100 generations.
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    Today, it's the mother tongue
    of five million Jews.
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    And at least for me,
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    an assimilated English-speaking member
    of the Jewish diaspora,
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    a pillar of cultural sovereignty.
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    Two thousand years later,
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    we're still here.
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    Now, until recently,
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    Hebrew's reawakening was an anomaly.
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    Few languages are
    as well preserved as ours was,
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    and the creation of Israel,
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    the first Jewish state
    in over 1,000 years,
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    provided a space for Hebrew's daily use.
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    In other words, most cultures
    just weren't given a chance.
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    (Video) Good evening, I'm Elizabeth
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    and I live in Cornwall.
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    That was Cornish,
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    the ancestral language of Cornwall,
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    which today is technically
    a county in southern England.
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    In the 1900s, Cornish activists
    fought for their culture.
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    The language had been dormant
    for over 100 years,
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    but they used old books and plays
    to teach it to their children.
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    However, this new generation
    of Cornish speakers
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    was scattered across Cornwall
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    and unable to use the language freely.
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    By the 1990s, Cornish had reawakened,
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    but it wasn't thriving.
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    Then, in the early 2000s,
    Cornish speakers found one another online
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    and leveraged digital spaces
    to speak on a daily basis.
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    From there, they organized
    weekly or monthly events
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    where they could gather
    and speak in public.
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    Today, some schools teach Cornish.
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    There are Cornish language signs,
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    ice-cream commercials,
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    Wikipedia, and even memes.
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    (Laughter)
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    (Laughter)
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    And with their language once again intact,
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    the people of Cornwall
    have secured recognition
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    as a Celtic nation alongside
    Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
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    They stared down centuries
    of forced assimilation
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    and said, "We're not a county in England.
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    We're a people in our own right.
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    And we're still here."
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    And they're not the only ones.
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    The Tunica-Biloxi tribe of Louisiana
    is reviving their ancestral language.
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    (Video) My name is Teyanna.
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    My friends, they call me "Quiet Storm."
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    It started in the 1980s,
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    when Donna Pierite and her family
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    started taking trips
    to Baton Rouge and New Orleans
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    to photocopy old dictionaries
    stored away in university archives.
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    The goal was to study Tunica
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    and teach it to the children
    and share it with the community.
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    Today, they're leading
    a Tunica renaissance.
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    Since 2014, there are nearly 100 speakers
    in language immersion classes,
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    and according to a 2017 census,
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    32 new fluent speakers,
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    some of whom,
    like Donna's daughter Elisabeth,
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    are teaching Tunica to their children.
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    These new speakers are creating content,
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    Facebook videos and also memes.
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    (Laughter)
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    (Laughter)
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    (Laughter)
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    And the more they publish,
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    the more they inspire other
    Tunica people to get involved.
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    Recently, a tribal member living in Texas
    wrote Elisabeth on Facebook,
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    asking how to say "bless these lands."
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    It was for a yard sign,
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    so she could show her neighbors
    that her culture is alive
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    and thriving today.
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    Now, Hebrew, Cornish and Tunica
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    are just three examples from a groundswell
    of language activism on every continent.
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    And whether they're Jèrriais speakers
    from the Channel Isles,
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    or Kenyan sign language
    speakers from Nairobi,
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    all communities working
    to preserve or reclaim a language
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    have one thing in common: media,
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    so their language
    can be shared and taught.
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    And as the internet grows,
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    expanding media access and creation,
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    preserving and reclaiming
    ancestral languages
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    is now more possible than ever.
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    So what are your ancestral languages?
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    Mine are Hebrew, Yiddish,
    Hungarian and Scottish Gaelic,
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    even though I was raised in English.
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    And luckily for me, each of these
    languages is available online.
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    Hebrew in particular --
    it came installed on my iPhone,
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    it's supported by Google Translate,
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    it even has autocorrect.
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    And while your language
    may not be as widely supported,
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    I encourage you to investigate,
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    because chances are, someone, somewhere,
    has started getting it online.
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    Reclaiming your language
    and embracing your culture
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    is a powerful way to be yourself
    in the age of globalization,
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    because as I recently learned
    to say in Hebrew,
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    "'nḥnw 'dyyn k'n" --
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    we're still here.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Títol:
How to save a language from extinction
Speaker:
Daniel Bögre Udell
Descripció:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Projecte:
TEDTalks
Duration:
06:46

English subtitles

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