In case you too would like to write a feature article on an endangered language, here’s the formula. In the original formula I specified a sequence, but this is an unordered list of elements that should be included.
- Provide a scene of a last speaker (or small group), usually an elderly woman. Preferably make it a language spoken outside the US or Western Europe. Minority language stories for those countries often focus on revitalisation (cf Irish and Romansch) rather than essentialising the last speakers.
- cut to general information “linguists agree that half of the world’s languages spoken today will be gone in 50 years”. Then a quote from Michael Kraus.
- Provide a few sentences about imperial languages, usually either English or Spanish
- a comment about economics which makes the linguists look like bleeding hearts.
- Provide an example of a word that can’t be translated into a single English word. For bonus points, make it a longish word which has something to do with time. Zero points if the word is spelled correctly though.
- A comment about how the language makes a person think differently.
- Imply that younger relatives are more interested in McDonalds and Nike, or slackers who would rather watch TV than learn about their culture.
- Employ something of the “noble savage” trope and link it to communities.
- End with a phrase about about tongues falling silent.