1) Arnold Zwicky has an interesting Language Log post about “conflicts between faithfulness (Faith: roughly, stick to the original) and well-formedness (WF: roughly, make things fit your system)”: for example, should the p in pH be capitalized if it begins a sentence? My answer: rewrite the sentence so it doesn’t come at the beginning, but I’m an editor. Unfortunately, Zwicky perpetuates the persistent myth that E.E. Cummings preferred his name spelled without periods and capital letters (see here and here for refutation).
2) John Emerson, a frequent and valued commenter, is selling some of his books at very reasonable prices: “China is my specialty, but I have some books in French, some books about the Mongolian language, and a number of beautiful, well-made Heritage Club books, mostly novels and classics, in good to like new condition.” See if there’s something that appeals to you.
3) A story by Jen Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle describes the efforts of 16-year-old Chilean Joubert Yanten to keep his native tongue, Selk’nam, alive; it’s a member of the Chon family that Wikipedia says “went extinct in 2003″ (and Ethnologue
doesn’t seem to acknowledge at all calls Ona).
But learning a language when there is no one to speak it with is no small task. Yanten used dictionaries and audiocassettes of interviews and shamanic chants, recorded by Jesuit missionaries.
The teen leafs through the photocopied pages of a Selk’nam dictionary he borrowed from the library, which includes special sections on grammar and sentence structure. He explains that Selk’nam differs from Spanish in that the object comes at the beginning of a sentence, followed by the subject and the verb…
Besides Selk’nam and Spanish, he also speaks fluent Mapudungun – the language of Chile’s largest indigenous group – the Mapuche. He considers himself only semi-versed in the native languages of Onikenk, Haush, Kawesqar, and Quechua – not to mention English.
He’s also learning Yagan – a nearly extinct language from Chile’s far south. He’s been learning from its last living speaker, Christina Calderon, for three years, on the phone and by Internet messages. She has sent him recordings of songs and tribal stories. Yanten has also traveled to visit her in remote Tierra del Fuego, most recently on a trip financed by a Chilean television station.
Good for him. (Thanks for the link, Eve!)