Monday, February 26, 2007

TWiEL: Wymysorys

You're familiar with the quasi-weekly Hump This and of course you know The Daily Hump, that weekday feature that's been more regular than a sixty-five year old full of prune juice. Well, this week I'm happy to introduce two new features: Mondays' This Week in Endangered Languages (TWiEL) and Wednesdays' I Live for Dead Tongues (ILfDT).

Endangered languages make me sad. Like endangered animals they're just steps away from disappearing from this earth forever. As Wikipedia notes
While there are somewhere around six or seven thousand languages on Earth today, about half of them have fewer than about 3,000 speakers. Experts predict that even in a good scenario, about half of today's languages will go extinct within the next fifty to one hundred years.
Sure, unlike extinct animals, we can occassionally resurrect an extinct language but it hasn't happened to often (Wikipedia shows only 13 examples). Some people even argue that language extinction is good
...fewer languages means better and clearer communications among the majority of speakers. The economic cost of maintaining myriad separate languages, and their translator caretakers, is enormous.
Humbug. Languages are invaluable; they are unique and hold within their grammar, lexicon and oral traditions thousands of clues about the identities of the speakers and how they live. To delete a language is to permanently destroy windows into these cultures. This line of thinking condones abuse of the minority by the majority and is nothing more than a form of cultural whitewashing.

TWiEL will be relying a lot on Wikipedia's List of endangered languages so I'll be using their definition for determining whether a language is endangered: it must have less than 1,000 speakers and be in rapid decline. I maintain this column as an appreciation for the shrinking universe which these languages describe. Today we're going to start with the waning Wymysorys.

Language family: Indo-European, Germanic, West Germanic, High German
Writing system: Latin alphabet

Where you'll hear it: Wilamowice, Poland

The origins: "Wymysorys appears to derive from 12th century Middle High German, with a strong influence from Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Polish and Old English. The inhabitants of Wilamowice are thought to be descendants of Dutch, German and Scottish settlers who arrived in Poland in the 13th century. However, the inhabitants of Wilamowice always refused any connections with Germany and proclaimed their Dutch origins."
Famous speakers: poet Florian Biesik

The beginning of the end: "After World War II, local communist authorities forbade the use of the language. Despite the fact that the ban was lifted after 1956, Wymysorys has been gradually replaced by Polish, especially amongst the younger generations."
And today: 70 speakers

Śłöf duy buwła fest!
Skumma frmdy gest,
Skumma muma ana fettyn,
Z' brennia nysła ana epułn,
Śłöf duy Jasiu fest!

Sleep, my boy, soundly!
Foreign guests are coming,
Aunts and uncles are coming,
Bringing nuts and apples,
Sleep Johnny sound

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:: posted by David, 8:03 AM


How do you pronounce "Wymysorys?"
Blogger Auntie Sarah, at 11:38 AM  
Good question--I have no idea. I posted the question here but lord knows if we'll get a response.
Blogger David, at 2:41 PM  
check it out...I got a response: "Do you want precise pronounce word Wymysorys? I can write it phonetic: Wymysiöeryś.
But if you want pronounce of the language, i can record some songs in this language, and send you.
PS. I'm sorry. My English isn't very good, but I hope, you understand me :)"
Blogger David, at 4:29 PM  
Aww, that's cool. Yay Wymysorys!
Blogger Auntie Sarah, at 3:28 PM  

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