Lost Language Reclaimed

After six generations of no speakers of Wopanotooaok, nineteen students are receiving their education entirely in that language. I wonder whether the sounds of how people speak are the same?

“The language brought to the English lexicon words like pumpkin (spelled pohpukun in Wopanaotooaok), moccasin (mahkus), skunk (sukok), powwow (pawaw) and Massachusetts (masachoosut)…”

The movement to revitalize native American languages started gaining traction in the 1990s and today, most of country’s more than 550 tribes are engaged in some form of language preservation work, says Diana Cournoyer, of the National Indian Education Association.

But the Mashpee Wampanoag stand out because they’re one of the few tribes to have brought back their language despite not having any surviving adult speakers, says Teresa McCarty, a cultural anthropologist and applied linguist at the University of California Los Angeles.

‘‘Imagine learning to speak, read, and write a language that you have never heard spoken and for which no oral records exist,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s a human act of brilliance, faith, courage, commitment and hope.’’

from the Boston Globe

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