Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘rare’

0705-polyglot-3

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Daniel Kaufman, founder of the Endangered Language Alliance, is recording and preserving the many endangered languages of New York.

A number of people who follow this blog are interested in endangered languages and what is being done to save them. Recently, I saw this article on the treasure trove of rare languages that is found in — of all places — Queens, New York. Here it is.

Harry Bruninius writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Like many immigrants who live near the busy subway hub in Jackson Heights, Tenzin Namdol usually talks to her family and friends with a shape-shifting array of tongues.

“She’ll jump from colloquial Tibetan to standard English in the middle of a conversation almost without a thought, and then start speaking what she says has become a third hybrid of slang, combining the phonetics of both. She also speaks fluent Hindi. ….

“Despite this easy fluency in a number of very different languages, Ms. Namdol becomes wistful when it comes to one she hasn’t quite mastered – the native tongue of her mother, whose people speak a rare Himalayan dialect called Mustangi.

“There are only about 3,000 people left in the world who still speak Mustangi, and most live in a remote Himalayan region in western Nepal. But a few hundred or so of these speakers, including Ms. Namdol’s mother, now reside in the New York borough of Queens.

This also happens to be the most linguistically diverse neighborhood on earth, scholars say.

“With as many as 800 distinct languages, Queens has a diversity of tongues and dialects unprecedented in human history – and its epicenter is here amid the concentrated din of Jackson Heights. …

” ‘Sadly, my mother didn’t pass down her language to me,’ says Ms. Namdol, whose family lived among the Tibetan diaspora in Dharamshala, India, before emigrating to New York. …

“Part of this classic story, too, has been the well-intended reactions of immigrant parents like her mother, who raised her daughter to speak the lingua franca of their wider community, the standard Tibetan used for commerce, government institutions, and the traditions of Buddhism. What use could a language like Mustangi offer her daughter?

“ ‘Now if I go to a gathering of my mother’s people, I’m not able to understand their words, so they don’t really identify me as one of their own because I don’t know their language,’ says Ms. Namdol. …

“For the past year, she has begun to learn the words of Mustangi, volunteering with the Endangered Language Alliance, a nonprofit in Manhattan that works with immigrant communities to preserve their dying languages.

“Collecting the stories of local Tibetans in their native tongues, she’s been recording them for the alliance’s project ‘Voices of the Himalayas,’ learning more about some of the other seven languages spoken in Jackson Heights’ Tibetan diaspora, including her father’s native tongue, Kyirong, a three-tone Tibetic language spoken mostly in Nepal. …

” ‘This  neighborhood in particular is like, I would say, the Noah’s Ark of languages,” says Daniel Kaufman, a professor of linguistics at Queens College and the executive director of the Endangered Language Alliance. … And it’s really just a coincidence, Dr. Kaufman says, that Jackson Heights happens to be at the crossroads of language diversity. The immigrant communities clustered here happen to be from countries that already have the most spoken languages in the world. …

“Alex Paz, however, may be one of only a handful of people living in New York who speaks P’urhépecha, an indigenous pre-Columbian language spoken in southern Mexico.

Considered an ‘isolate’ among human tongues, P’urhépecha is not only rare, but also one of a kind, linguistically unrelated to any other known language in the world.

“ ‘There are things that can only be said in my language,’ says Mr. Paz, an immigrant from the small mountain town of Ocumícho in the Michoacán region of southern Mexico. ‘Even at home, I can see how my language is disappearing, and this means a lot of cultural aspects, too, because language – once we lose our language, I think that’s the essence of who we are.’ …

“Mr. Paz, too, has been volunteering for the Endangered Language Alliance, trying to locate and collect everything that’s been written in P’urhépecha over the past few decades. And while he hasn’t found anyone else in New York who speaks his language, Mr. Paz has been immersed in it as he never has before, putting what he finds into a database and then providing word-by-word translations into English and Spanish – a complex and complicated task, he says, since many of his language’s words contain concepts nearly impossible to translate. …

“ ‘It’s like the language is the only thing that we have left, and its concepts,’ Mr. Paz says. ‘I don’t want to read somewhere, or have to say, “Back in the day in Michoacán we used to speak this language, P’urhépecha.” It’s sad, and I want to at least try to keep it alive.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Mark Lenihan/AP
The No. 7 subway train arrives at the 82 Street Jackson Heights station in Queens. Jackson Heights is one of the more diverse neighborhoods in New York City. 

0705-polyglot-2

Read Full Post »

105862718_b565e946-b20b-47fb-8b5b-a844df8c1076

Photo: Thomas Turner/Reuters
This hoodwinker sunfish, a species discovered only in 2017, has washed up on a California beach. Scientists believe it belongs in the Southern Hemisphere.

As much as I love learning about new species like this giant sunfish from the Southern Hemisphere, I can’t help feeling concerned that it ended up on a beach where it doesn’t belong. Is this another sign of global warming? Not likely. This fish likes temperate water and would have had to pass the hot Equator. A mystery.

Christina Zdanowicz has the story at CNN. “This is the extraordinary tale of how a massive, strange-looking fish wound up on a beach on the other side of the world from where it lives. The seven-foot fish washed up at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California [in February]. Researchers first thought it was a similar and more common species of sunfish — until someone posted photos on a nature site and experts weighed in. …

“It turned out to be a species never seen before in North America. It’s called the hoodwinker sunfish.

‘When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker,’ said Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who discovered the species in 2017. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair.’

“Nyegaard … works in the marine division at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand. … ‘We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys?’ …

“An intern at Coal Oil Point Reserve alerted conservation specialist Jessica Nielsen to the dead beached sunfish on February 19. When Nielsen first saw it, the unusual features of the fish caught her eye.

” ‘This is certainly the most remarkable organism I have seen wash up on the beach in my four years at the reserve,’ Nielsen said in a UC Santa Barbara press release. She posted some photos of the fish on the reserve’s Facebook page. When colleague Thomas Turner saw the photos later that day, he rushed to the beach with his wife and young son. …

“He snapped some photos of what he thought was an ocean sunfish, a rare sight up-close, he said.

” ‘It’s the most unusual fish you’ve ever seen,’ said the UC Santa Barbara associate professor.

‘It has no tail. All of its teeth are fused, so it doesn’t have any teeth. It’s just got this big round opening for a mouth.’

“Turner posted his photos on iNaturalist, a site where people post photos and sightings of plants and animals. A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, a fish scientist and the fish curator at the South Australian Museum.

“It was Foster who first said this may be a hoodwinker sunfish and not an ocean sunfish in the comments on iNaturalist. …

“Foster excitedly emailed Nyegaard, the woman who discovered the species, and told her what he was thinking. …

“It had been two days since Nielsen had first seen the fish. When Turner and Nielsen went back to the beach [to get sharper photos], the creature was no longer there.

“They started two miles apart from each other on the beach and kept looking, walking toward each other until they found the missing fish. It had refloated on the tide and washed up a few hundred yards away, Turner said. …

“All of the features in the photos matched up with the hoodwinker. When Nyegaard saw the photos, she knew she had a hoodwinker case on her hands. …

“Both Nyegaard and Turner marveled at how social media and the iNaturalist site can help bring researchers closer to an answer. …

“Turner said it was exciting for him to help identify the first recorded sighting of a hoodwinker sunfish in North America — and only the second in the Northern Hemisphere.

” ‘I’m a professor, I’m a biologist but I didn’t actually know what was special about this fish,’ Turner said. ‘I just posted a picture and that connected me with the world’s expert and the discoverer of the species.’ ”

Super photos at CNN, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Iñaki LL

One of my Facebook friends shared an entertaining page on “rare and strange instruments” (you have to see it to believe it), leading me to seek more information on an instrument called the txalaparta. It may not be as unusual as the piano that makes cats meow but is nevertheless worthy of investigation.

According to Wikipedia, the txalaparta is “a specialized Basque music device of wood or stone. In some regions of the Basque Country, zalaparta (with [s]) means ‘racket,’ while in others (in Navarre) txalaparta has been attested as meaning the trot of the horse, a sense closely related to the sound of the instrument. …

“During the last 150 years, txalaparta has been attested as a communication device used for funeral (hileta), celebration (jai) or the making of slaked lime (kare), or cider (sagardo). After the making of cider, the same board that pressed the apples was beaten to summon the neighbours. Then, a celebration was held and txalaparta played cheerfully, while cider was drunk. …

“Traditional txalaparta was almost extinct in the 1950s with a handful of pairs of peasants maintaining the tradition. It was then revived by folklorists, such as Jesus and Jose Antonio Artze from the group Ez dok amairu.” Now you can hear it on YouTube, below.

More at Wikipedia.

Video: The Give and Take of Wood and Stone. Oreka Tx Brings Once Threatened Basque Sounds and New Global Resonances to the U.S. in September 2010 and on Nömadak Tx.

Read Full Post »

Here’s a guy who didn’t just ring his hands when he learned that a magnificent butterfly species was endangered in his part of California; he decided to do something about it.

Zachary Crockett reports at Vox, “It begins its life as a tiny red egg, hatches into an enormous orange-speckled caterpillar, and then — after a gestation period of up to two years — emerges as an iridescent blue beauty. Brimming with oceanic tones, the creature’s wings are considered by collectors to be some of the most magnificent in North America.

“For centuries, the California pipevine swallowtail — or, Battus philenor hirsuta — called San Francisco home. As development increased in the early 20th century, the butterfly slowly began to disappear. Today it is a rare sight.

“But one man’s DIY efforts are starting to bring the butterfly back.”

Tim Wong, a 28-year-old aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, tells Crockett, ” ‘I first was inspired to raise butterflies when I was in elementary school … We raised painted lady butterflies in the classroom, and I was amazed at the complete metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult.’ …

“Years later, he learned about the pipevine swallowtail — which had become increasingly rare in San Francisco — and he made it his personal mission to bring the butterfly back.

“He researched the butterfly and learned that when in caterpillar form, it only feeds on one plant: the California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), an equivalently rare flora in the city.

” ‘Finally, I was able to find this plant in the San Francisco Botanical Garden [in Golden Gate Park],’ Wong says. ‘And they allowed me to take a few clippings of the plant.’

“Then in his own backyard, using self-taught techniques, he created a butterfly paradise.”

Read more here. It sure takes persistence.

Here’s hoping an elementary school project in 2016 will lead to the rescue of another endangered species down the road.

Photo: Tim Wong (@timtast1c)

Read Full Post »

Thousands of languages are becoming extinct as the last of the people who speak them die off.

In a race against time, some determined souls who value the richness and insights that individual languages provide are making efforts to save as many minority languages as possible. We posted about that here.

Today National Public Radio had a feature on another approach to preservation, the Liet International Song Contest.

“Auditions are now underway for next May’s Eurovision Song Contest — that often-ridiculed television spectacle that has drawn millions of viewers around the world every year since 1956. In 2012 the host country will be Azerbaijan, since that country fielded last year’s winner. The show’s performers rely on outlandish costumes, dance moves and gimmicks to grab attention because most viewers can’t understand what they’re singing. But language is at the heart of another Eurovision-sponsored song and performance competition this weekend in Italy. The Liet International Song Contest is a very serious attempt to keep some of the continent’s neglected languages alive.”

Read more.’

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: