Death of a Language

08 Oct

Another language is dead.

Two weeks ago, the last man who fluently spoke the Cromarty dialect died at age 92 in a small town on the tip of Scotland’s Black Isle.

==The Cromarty dialect included a helping of archaic “thees” and “thous” as well as a wealth of seafaring vocabulary, including three sets of words for “second fishing line.”

The aspirate “h” was often added or subtracted, so that “house” would be pronounced “oos” and “apple” would be pronounced “haypel.” The “wh” sound was often dropped entirely.” ==

Full article here.

A few phrases taken from a related link:

Foamin for want / Desperate for tea:  At’s theer trouble? / What’s your trouble?:  Theer nae tae big fi a sclaffert yet! / You’re not too big for a slap!:  Ah wudna ken artil start. / I wouldn’t know where to start.

I think it’s a beautiful dialect. It’s called a death by linguists because although they have it recorded, Cromarty is no longer spoken as a native dialect.

In his book, When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge, K. David Harrison says,

“By the year 2100, many linguists estimate, half of the world’s 6,912 distinct languages will be extinct. At present, 548 of them retain fewer than ninety-nine speakers (this book was written in 2008). We can expect to lose a language every ten days; and behind each of these disappearances lies a story of cultural loss, sadness and isolation.”

I’ve addressed the question of language evolution on more than one occasion, but this article presented a new thought to me. While language has always changed in the natural course of history, linguists feel it is also becoming more standardized because of “urbanization, compulsory education, and mass media.”

I’m not here to debate pros and cons or the difference between language and dialect.

I’m sad.

I just wanted to raise a glass to Bobby Hogg and Cromarty.


Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Etymology, Idaho


Tags: ,

23 responses to “Death of a Language

  1. ValRoberts

    October 8, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Rest in peace, Bobby. Cheers to you, lad, we won’t see your kind again. [clink]

  2. Judith Keim

    October 8, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    Great post, Janis. Language is fascinating to me. I love hearing how the sounds change from one location to another and even how one sentence can sound so differently with inflections and physical expressions. RIP, Bobby, for being true to yourself!

    • Janis McCurry

      October 8, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      Things change and we can’t help that. In light of a better word. Slainte.

  3. Corina Mallory

    October 8, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    There’s just something about endings that is inherently sad – even happy endings, even when the thing ending wasn’t so great. Add an ending to something singular or solitary and the sadness just trebles. I always get sad when I see a single animal that I know should belong in a herd – an elk all alone in a meadow, a horse by itself in a pasture. The end of a language, which is the very definition of a communal activity … it is something to mourn.

    • Janis McCurry

      October 8, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      I feel the same way about the extinction of species. While I wouldn’t sacrifice people for them, I can’t help but mourn.

  4. Peggy Staggs

    October 8, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Sad. As people evolve and times change things fall away and language is always a fatality. Look how much our language has changed in the last two hundred years. I hope someone is keeping a record of all the languages, because when a language dies we lose that history.

    • Janis McCurry

      October 8, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      I believe we are getting better at recording them. I wonder how many there are that we are not aware of that get lost?

  5. Meredith Allen Conner

    October 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    I’ll join you in that toast Janis. Slainte. And thank you for sharing.

  6. Janis McCurry

    October 8, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Thanks, Meredith.

  7. Stephanie Berget

    October 8, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I read this and join you in the sadness. Another phrase was, “Oo thee keepan?” or how are you?

  8. Janis McCurry

    October 8, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    I wonder if someday our books will be considered part of archaic language. Probably.

  9. maryvine

    October 8, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Good post, Janis. Something to think about. I realized just now that my father’s language ended as he stopped speaking it and didn’t teach it to his children. Yet, he said in his later years that his family came here and to get a job and make a living in America one needed to speak the language. But still….

  10. Janis McCurry

    October 8, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    But still…yep.

  11. Lynn Mapp

    October 8, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    Janis, language is ever changing. It’s sad for us to lose one. It marks a passage.

  12. Janis McCurry

    October 9, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    So true.

  13. Clarissa Southwick

    October 9, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    This is one of those topics that has always fascinated me. In France, they try to keep their language alive by tight regulation. An official academy regulates advertising and such to make sure no foreign words sneak in. English takes the exact opposite approach, adopting every foreign word that passes by. I have my theories on which method is more effective, but I guess I’ll let time be the final judge 🙂

    • Janis McCurry

      October 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      In high school, we learned bifteck as the French word for beefsteak. I thought it sounded very English. Which came first, the chicken or the egg.

  14. MK Hutchins (@mkhutchins)

    October 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    If you’re interested in the wealth of languages in the world, this is a very cool site with information on all of the 6,609 known & living languages:

    It’s fascinating how every language shows us something about history, how language changes, or just what’s possible in the realm of human language and expression. I’ve learned more about how English is put together from learning about other languages than I ever did in English class.

    • Janis McCurry

      October 9, 2012 at 3:06 PM

      Great resource to bookmark. Thanks, MK.

  15. marsharwest

    October 9, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    Interesting post, Janis. My CP has a love affair with wales. To the point that (yes she’s lived there for several years) when she speaks it creeps into her accent and delivery. It’s quite cute. As a former speech teacher, I’ve always been fascinated by accents. I do believe in the US, we’re all beginning to sound a little more like each other, still the differences abound. For a whole language to no longer exist when no one speaks it anymore–well, that’s amazing. I’ve always been aware of the dialect thing–I am from Texas and we have our share–, but for no one to speak a language any more. Yes. Sad passage. Thanks for raising our awareness, Janis.

  16. Liz Fredericks

    October 14, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    To Bobby Hogg and Cromarty!


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