The Feud That Could Kill A Language


A language dissapears every two weeks. The language diversity is declining and today we talk about one of those languages in danger, Ayapaneco.

Out of the countless languages and dialects spoken across the globe, there are far too many that are slowly drifting into extinction. Mass migrations toward the urban centers where businesses flourish are leaving rural areas with their own languages devoid of new speakers that can carry the torch and secure a bright future for their native tongue.

One of these dying languages is the centuries old Ayapaneco, spoken in the village of Ayapa, Mexico. It has weathered invasions, plagues, endless wars, and the ever encroaching Spanish language that has been slowly eroding every other form of communication in the country. In fact, Ayapaneco is so close to dying that, according to some sources, only two speakers remain: Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez, both of them already in their seventies, and to make matters worse, they don’t speak to each other.

Allegedly, there is no single event that drove a wedge into their friendship and sealed the fate of Ayapaneco. They seem to have disliked each other from the get go, and as all the other speakers died, only the two enemies remained. The irony is of cosmic proportions.

And now, the plot twist: The whole story is as fake as it gets. Although Ayapaneco is indeed a critically endangered language, there are still around fifteen speakers that use it regularly, and regarding Mr. Manuel and Mr. Isidro, they were actually pals all along. This little piece of falsehood broke into the media around 2010, and had the surprising effect of bringing dying languages into the spotlight, even if it was by spicing them up with an almost comical set of circumstances surrounding their impending demise.

The thing is, it actually worked. Since the article started doing the rounds and capturing public imagination, there has been renewed interest in preserving these almost extinct by governments and other cultural institutions.

So, was it worth pushing good ole’ fake news to raise the issue? Well, that’s for each one to decide, but sometimes desperate circumstances require resorting to desperate measures. Oh, and we had a laugh too.

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