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Language revival (was Re: Which auxlangs? (was Re: I won't [to] start a flame war))

From:alypius <krazyal@...>
Date:Saturday, November 13, 1999, 15:40
>At 10:38 pm +0100 12/11/99, Irina Rempt-Drijfhout wrote: >>On Thu, 11 Nov 1999, alypius wrote: >> >>> Cornish? really? Do any families speak this language at home? I had not >>> heard of this. ~alypius >> >>I used to know one family who brought their kids up in Cornish. This >>was in the late 1970s and the kids were very small, so they ought to >>be adults now; I lost contact with those people soon after (I broke >>up with my boyfriend and they were friends of his) so I never heard >>whether they kept it up. > >Yep - I understand quite a lot of kids have been brought up speaking >Cornish as L1 and English as L2. > >There are estimated to be some 2000 people with some knowledge of Cornish, >but fluent speakers probably number only a couple of hundred or so. >
>Ray. >
Amazing. Reviving a dead language without government support is amazing. Even with state support, I understand the reversal of Irish language decline has been a project of questionable success, though I would argue that the Irish state has not used every resource at its disposal. How does one manage to revive a dead language as a living spoken language on even a small scale, such as Cornish has done? How did the first speakers learn to speak it when they had no one to speak to in Cornish? Does anyone know how this is done? I would like to see more dead or nearly dead languages revived, but the obstacles appear daunting. Old English would be a good candidate. So would Old Bulgarian, which today survives only in Slavic liturgical usage. For several generations, the Greek state and intelligentsia encouraged the adoption of the more traditional katherevousa dialect, which was used in government, church, and scientific documents, and taught in public schools. Eventually--I think in the 1970's--they gave up and accepted "Modern Standard Greek," essentially a dialect of demotic, as a common standard, even though 90% of the non-fiction books at that time were in katherevousa and would not be understood by the new generation that grew up learning demotic only. Such failures make the revival of Cornish on even a small scale appear all the more remarkable. I once read that, in the old days--18th century and earlier--the educated classes would learn to think--and, I assume, to speak--in Latin and ancient Greek by doing extensive translation from their mother tongue into Greek and Latin. I have also read about speeches at graduation being given in Latin, Greek, and even in Hebrew. What are the secrets to reviving a dead or archaic tongue? (I would guess these same techniques could be used to achieve fluency in a constructed language.) Any thoughts, y'all? ~alypius