Category Archives: Linguistics

Notes on Language Endangerment

An endangered language is one that is likely to entirely cease being spoken within a few generations. This kind of language death is not the same as the gradual change undergone by “dead” ancient languages like Latin which did not suddenly cease to be spoken, but that slowly evolved into something new. In the case of Latin, it evolved into the modern romance languages like French and Italian.

Language extinction occurs as speakers of minority languages come under economic, social, and/or political pressure to adopt the majority language being spoken around them (Woodbury 2000). The pressure exerted by major world languages is evidenced by the fact that 50% of the world’s population speak one of the top 12 world languages (Ostler 2005:526). A language becomes extinct when all the members of the new generation have adopted the language of the outside majority and the last older generation speaker of the minority language has died.

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What happened to Iranian Languages and Scripts?

There used to be an excellent web site called Iranian Languages & Scripts (IL&S) at http://iranianlanguages.com, but there has been nothing at this address for several months now. This site had introductory information, samples of writing, and bibliographies for all the languages of the Iranian language family, as well as some good articles on the history of the Iranian language, and on-line texts from the Avesta. If anyone knows a new address for this web site please leave a note with the new URL in the comments at the end of this post. Continue reading

Writing about Yaghnobi grammar

My wife and I spent the fall of last year living with a Yaghnobi family in a village in Tajikistan. It was a fantastic experience. The family we lived with was extremely hospitable. We spent several hours every day sitting around the dastarkhon (tablecloth) with them, their extended family, and neighbors. We will always value the friendships we made there.

My purpose for living in a Yaghnobi community was to study the language and collect material for my MA Thesis. I am a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Oregon and plan to graduate in the spring of this year.

I really enjoyed eliciting words and sentences in Yaghnobi, collecting stories, and analyzing the language. Since we lived in the home of Saifiddin Mirzoev who has a doctorate in philology and is head of the department of languages at the Rudaki Institute of Language and Literature, I received a great deal of expert consultation and was able to make tremendous progress in studying the Yaghnobi language.

Now I’m back home in Oregon working and writing my Thesis. I’ve been feeling a bit isolated in this work since I don’t know anyone else who is studying the Yaghnobi language. I’m hoping that this blog will be a medium for connecting and collaborating with other students and scholars of the Yaghnobi language.

 6/13/07 Update: I started a new blog, The Yaghnobi, and all new posts about the Yaghnobi language are being made there.