Apr 22 Sunday 2018 02:26 AM
The Yaghan language is on the verge of dying out. It was once spoken by lakhs of people in Argentina and Chile. But now, there is only one fluent speaker of this language alive.
The language of the Yaghan (or Yamana) stems from the tribe of Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago split between Chile and Argentina at the southern tip of South America. The Yaghan or Yamana people have lived as hunter-gatherers in Tierra del Fuego for over 10,000 years. Their Yagan language is one of the 'language isolate' in the world. It means that it was not derived from any other language; it is original in all senses. The Yaghan tribe was nomadic i.e. hunter-gatherers. The land on which they used to roam, is poor in resources. So, there are only those nouns for things that are found on the land of Tierra del Fuego. Today, the Yagan tribe has been reduced to fewer than 2,000 people and most of them speak Spanish. One of the words of the Yaghan language, Mamihlapinatapai has been called the world’s hardest word to translate. It was listed in the 1994 Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most “succinct word.” It has been translated into English as "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin." There are also other meanings to it: "It is that look across the table when two people are sharing an unspoken but private moment. When each knows the other understands and is in agreement with what is being expressed. An expressive and meaningful silence." However, according to one of the Yaghan tourist guides, its real meaning is: "It is the moment of meditation around the pusakí [fire in Yaghan] when the grandparents transmit their stories to the young people. It’s that instant in which everyone is quiet."
Did you know that there are about 7000 languages spoken across the world? Since the dominant languages are getting more and more users, the minor languages are losing their place. Is there any help? Well, we should call the 13-year-old teen Hillary Yip, who has made an app called MinorMynas. This app helps children to chat as well as learn others’ mother languages. Read more about that in the Good News section.
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