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OT: Semi-OT: Linguist battles to save 'lost' Eritrean language

From:Gregory Gadow <techbear@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 21:46
I found this article and thought it might be of interest to the liguists
in the group.

Linguist battles to save 'lost' Eritrean language
Tuesday May 10th, 2005 11:59.

ASMARA, May 10 (AFP) -- Nearly a decade after accidentally discovering a
previously unknown language on an Indian Ocean archipelago off the
Eritrean coast, a French linguist is fighting to save the unwritten,
untaught tongue.

"Dahaalik is part of humanity's heritage and must be preserved," said
Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, who with colleague Martine Vanhove, found
Dahlak island fishermen conversing in the unusual vernacular nine years

Puzzled by words and usage that did not correspond to the two main
languages of the region -- Afar and Arabic -- the pair at first thought it
was a dialect of Tigray, but later ascertained it was a distinct entity,
she said.

Although close to Arabic and Tigre, Dahaalik was determined to be a
language in itself due to its markedly different phonetics, morphology and
syntax, but had languished in obscurity on the isles off the port of

"Before 1996, no one had heard of Dahaalik," said Simeone-Senelle, a
Afro-Asiatic language specialist at the French National Centre for
Scientific Research (CNRS).

"We have to find out how it appeared," she said. "For the moment, we don't
know when it emerged."

Now spoken by only about 3 000 people on the three islands and not
currently taught in schools, Dahaalik, whose origins remain a mystery, is
in danger of dying out, she said.

The rest of the article (not printed due to copyright considerations) can
be read on-line at

Gregory Gadow


Wesley Parish <wes.parish@...>