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Apr
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Last Two Speakers of Dying Language Refuse to Talk to Each Other


“The survival of an endangered language may depend on two people — and all they want to do is ignore each other.

Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez, the last speakers of a language called Ayapaneco, live less than half a mile away from each other in Ayapa, Mexico. But no matter how precious the cultural implications of keeping their language alive are, they are not going to speak to each other. (…) The Guardian notes that, “It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company.”

Ayapaneco is one of many dozens of indigenous languages remaining in Mexico. Perhaps the most extreme case, it managed to survive the Spanish conquest in Mexico. Sixty-eight native languages are still in use today, although a handful are on the verge of extinction.

Regardless, linguists are still attempting to preserve the language despite the lack of communication between the last two fluent speakers, who no longer converse with anyone regularly in their native tongue. When Segovia, 75, and Velazquez, 65, both die, their language will pass away with them.

Still, Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist, sums up their relationship succinctly: “They don’t have a lot in common.
— Erica Ho, Last Two Speakers of Dying Language Refuse to Talk to Each Other, TIME, April 18, 2011. (Photo: Indigenous women from the Tzotzil tribe sit together in Acteal, Mexico, REUTERS / Rene Araujo)