Travels among threatened languages

“Languages embody the intellectual wealth of the people that speak them. Losing one of them is like dropping a bomb on the Louvre.” (Ken Hale, MIT) 126

If you love the infinite varieties of language and mourn the daily loss of so many living languages as English and the rest of the most widely-spoken language drive them into extinction, you’ll enjoy one of Gert’s favourites, Mark Abley’s Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages (Heineman 2003) in which Abley ranges far and wide, from Australian aboriginal languages to Yiddish to Manx to Provencal, and further afield. Gert’s favourite is the Boro language of north-eastern India, from which these useful words come. Couldn’t we do with them in English?

khonsay to pick an object up with care as it is rare or scarce

ur to dig soil as the swine do, to move curry while cooking

onsay to pretend to love

goblo to be fat (as a child)

gagrom to search for a thing in water by trampling

serrom to examine by slight pressing

khar to smell like urine or raw fish

mokhrob to express anger by a sidelong glance

For our Canadian readers, Abley has also written a fantastic book called Beyond Forget: Rediscovering the Prairies.
Those who think they know all about Canada will think again after reading this evocative book said The Scotsman.



6 thoughts on “Travels among threatened languages

  1. Beyond the Forget – should be interesting Gert. My grandparents settled in the west and my grandmother wrote about it. I think it was published in the archives in Saskatchewan. I have the original manuscript.

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