Ayapaneco language at extinction risk

A centuries-old language in Mexico is reportedly on the verge of extinction.

Updated: Apr 16, 2011, 10:12 AM IST

London: A centuries-old language
in Mexico is reportedly on the verge of extinction as its last
two fluent speakers refuse to talk to each other just because
they don`t get along.

The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land
now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish
conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods.

But now, it`s at risk of dying out as Manuel Segovia,
75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, who live less than half-a-mile
apart in a village refuse to speak to each other despite being
the only people fluent in Ayapaneco, `The Guardian` reported.

"They don`t have a lot in common," said Daniel Suslak,
a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is
involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco,
that`s part of a race against time to revitalise the language.

The name Ayapaneco is an imposition by outsiders, and
Segovia and Velazquez call their language Nuumte Oote, which
means the True Voice, the newspaper said.

"When I was a boy everybody spoke it. It`s disappeared
little by little and now I suppose it might die with me," said
Segovia, adding he conversed in Ayapaneco with his brother but
sadly he died 10 years ago.

He continues to speak to his wife and son in his
native tongue who understand him but, other than a few words,
they cannot speak back, the newspaper said.

The language`s demise was sealed by the advent of
education in Spanish in mid 20th century, which for decades
included the explicit prohibition on indigenous children
speaking anything else.

Urbanisation and migration from the 1970s then ensured
the break-up of the core group of speakers concentrated in the
village. "It`s a sad story," said Suslak, "but you have to be
really impressed by how long it has hung around."