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Now THAT Is What I Call a Feud

Thursday, April 14, 2011, 17:37 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I swear this story did not come from The Onion:

Ayapaneco, an indigenous language found in Mexico, is at risk of dying out as the only two speakers refuse to speak to each other.

Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, are the only two people who can speak it fluently, but they will not talk to each other, despite living only 500 yards from each other in the village of Ayapa in the Mexican southern state of Tabasco.

Mr Segovia reportedly spoke the language with his brother until he died around 10 years ago, and he still converses with his son and wife, who understand him but are unable to speak more than a few words. Mr Velazquez is understood to not speak to anyone in the language. The men are also said to disagree over aspects of the language.

It is not known why the pair do not talk to each other, but a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University who is involved in a project to make the first dictionary of the language, has said they do not have a lot in common.

Daniel Suslak told The Guardian that Mr Segovia can be “a little prickly” while Mr Velazquez is “more stoic”.

Mr Segovia told the newspaper: “When I was a boy everybody spoke it. It’s disappeared little by little, and now I suppose it might die with me.” He denied any animosity towards Mr Velazquez.

Yeah, they always deny any animosity right before they try to kill each other.

In all seriousness, though, this surely happens more than we will ever know. How many other local languages, never committed to writing, have already died out without fanfare because nobody knew about them in the first place? And if Mexico alone has 70 distinct indigenous languages, how many dozens more are there in other undeveloped regions of the world?

It’s a bit sad to think about, but such are the consequences of time and have been so throughout human history. The idea that we must preserve everything as it is now—whether it be languages, species, climate conditions, etc.—ignores the lengthy history of our planet for which change has been a constant. It is supreme arrogance that leads us to think that all that is familiar to us in 2011 is what’s meant to be forever.

That said, Señores Segovia and Velazquez have an opportunity to decide whether or not their language will survive them. If others in their village are interested, one or both of them might want to spend their final years teaching.

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