A striking quote from Alexander von Humboldt:

It is to be supposed that the last family of Atures did not die out until a long time afterwards: since at Maypures – bizarrely – there still survives an old parrot that nobody, say the natives, can understand, because it speaks only the language of the Atures.

(From Ramage.)


  1. That’s a subject for a Larson, isn’t it?

  2. Poignant. Did anyone take the time to transcribe the sounds the parrot was voicing?

  3. I remember one of my linguistics professors talking about the problems of recording all-but-dead languages when, for example, the last remaining speakers are so old that they cannot enunciate the phonemes properly (due to lost teeth or other problems). I can only imagine the headaches of trying to get data from a parrot.

  4. Yes…. in all the thousands of versions of this story, there never seems to be admitted the possibility that the natives were simply having a bit of fun at his expense. More Monty Python than Humboldt’s Parrot?

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