"Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

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"Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Vaureniathel » 2013-03-19, 18:15

These wonderful languages can be learned nowdays, can be read and written (at least, copiying original texts (?)) but, what about speaking ancient greek, latin or other "dead" languages? (Really? What about Harry Potter's translations into lantin and greek, and many other works, for example?) I think it's possible, although, before speaking, language itself must be learned, but without translations and dictionaries. Just learn it like you can learn Spanish, English or any other language. What do you think?
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Lur » 2013-03-21, 0:37

Kaixo!

There's shortage of material and inmersion, I think, the material being basically texts (I've learnt a lot of English seeing films and TV shows until I could follow the spoken language comfortably).There's also no recordings by native speakers so we're dealing with mostly reconstructions. In this sense it can't be the same, I don't think you are going to learn to distinguish Latin accents and their different particular words and expressions now lost to time.

On the other hand, we can think we're lucky to be able to know as much as we do about some old languages in particular.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Garethw87 » 2013-03-22, 0:38

Latin isn't as 'dead' as the others though
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Yasna » 2013-03-22, 0:52

Garethw87 wrote:Latin isn't as 'dead' as the others though

It's quite dead in every meaningful sense.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Veqq » 2013-03-22, 1:04

With Latin and the various varities of Ancient Greek you should be able to get just as fluent as you could in any other language - it's just that the materials don't quite exist to do it as easily? But there are good assimil courses (the older version is better, of course, and actually directed towards spoken Latin) for it after which you should be more or less fine using it? But the main issue is just... finding others who speak it well enough to correct you and tell you how to say tile when you ask what it is or such... It's mostly an issue of materials waiting to be written. But there are some good irc chat rooms, some social media thing and so on... And I know a few guys on skype, who - if I were to put some time into it - could teach me Latin in a wonderful way, just as I learn German or such? :>

With something like Gothic however... The corpus and our knowledge about it is tiny and there's no way you could even approach speaking it.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby ling » 2013-03-22, 3:34

There are small groups of Latin enthusiasts who converse entirely in Latin together, and some classes that actually teach Latin as a spoken language. Many among this eclectic group call it "living Latin". One of the pioneers of teaching Latin as a spoken language is Fr. Reginald Foster, who for decades gave spoken Latin classes in Rome. Now he lives in Milwaukee, and apparently still teaches. I believe the University of Kentucky also offers Latin classes taught as a spoken language.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Lur » 2013-03-22, 5:24

Yasna wrote:
Garethw87 wrote:Latin isn't as 'dead' as the others though

It's quite dead in every meaningful sense.

I don't know, we never stopped speaking it. It just got old. It's kind of unusual to call dead something that never died, if you think about it. Well, semantics. It is indeed old and "classical" (as a standardized variety preserved in literature). But I wouldn't say dead.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Yasna » 2013-03-22, 15:32

Luke wrote:
Yasna wrote:
Garethw87 wrote:Latin isn't as 'dead' as the others though

It's quite dead in every meaningful sense.

I don't know, we never stopped speaking it. It just got old. It's kind of unusual to call dead something that never died, if you think about it. Well, semantics. It is indeed old and "classical" (as a standardized variety preserved in literature). But I wouldn't say dead.

There's no community of Latin speakers who pass it on to their kids. To me that is the only meaningful benchmark of life for languages. Everything else is just technicalities.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Lur » 2013-03-22, 16:57

Well, they effectively passed it on to their kids.

I just find that idea of a "dead language" to be too abstract. It's all cladistics, as long as it goes on it's not dead. The idea that are languages descendants of a dead language only seems possible in the context of language resurrection.

There's no community of speakers passing on classical 17th century Castilian to their kids. Is it a dead language?
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Yasna » 2013-03-22, 17:24

Luke wrote:There's no community of speakers passing on classical 17th century Castilian to their kids. Is it a dead language?

That historical variation of the language is dead, yes.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Lur » 2013-03-22, 17:36

So my great-grandparents spoke a dead language, but everybody from my grand-parents to me speak an alive one.

That's just weird.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Yasna » 2013-03-22, 18:11

Luke wrote:So my great-grandparents spoke a dead language, but everybody from my grand-parents to me speak an alive one.

That's just weird.

It only comes out like that if you chop up the language into tiny historical stages. There's no need to do that. You and your great-grandparents are all Spanish speakers.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby eien » 2013-03-22, 23:08

That's actually kind of interesting. It's not really continuous in as far as it's transmitted through people who live a certain lifespan. But the discrete parts are sufficiently small that it becomes unintuitive and kind of perverse to think about it that way.
Still, each transmission is transformative and some information is lost and some information is created. After an arbitrary sufficient threshold of lost information, it is considered an analogous situation to languages whose transmission was terminated entirely.

Anyway, I read a related piece a few days ago:
The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World by J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams wrote:In contrast, Brent Berlin examined the languages of ten traditional farming societies and found that the average number of botanical taxa reported in each language was 520. If we were to treat such comparisons at face value this would suggest that we are recovering only about 11 per cent of the probable botanical lexicon known to Proto-Indo-Europeans.

Few thoughts:
1) That's a really surprising amount of information about plants contained in one stage of one language.
2) How would other dead languages stack up? It seems reasonable to assume that certain classes of words aren't going to be high-prestige and thus not likely to be written in an era with limited literacy and a small surviving corpus, and that certain other classes of words would tend naturally not to be written down, and others would tend to be quickly replaced (taboos, homophones etc.) Besides those, others are just going to be lost by normal attrition.

edit: Kind of also on topic maybe: there are several dead languages coursebooks that attempt to use modern language pedagogy techniques. Among them are Hans Ørberg's Lingua Latina per se Illustrata and, bizarrely, Luigi Miraglia's Italian translation of Gilbert Lawall and James F. Johnson's Athenaze.

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Garethw87 » 2013-03-23, 0:04

Yasna wrote:
Garethw87 wrote:Latin isn't as 'dead' as the others though

It's quite dead in every meaningful sense.


I agree that most are 'dead' languages and people like us on here learn them out of interest and what not but with Latin I can't accept it's 'dead'. If it was dead why is it...

Still on the new curriculum for English schools as a language option?
http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/tea ... ion-report

and why is the the functioning language of the Vatican
http://www.vatican.va/latin/latin_index.html
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby JackFrost » 2013-03-23, 0:19

Sometimes dead is contrasted with extinct. Latin is a dead language in almost all aspects, but not yet extinct.

and why is the the functioning language of the Vatican

Italian is usually used to manage daily affairs such as laws, communication, etc. and Latin is only used for the masses and the most official stuff. I wouldn't exactly say it's a functioning language there.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Garethw87 » 2013-03-23, 20:12

JackFrost wrote:Sometimes dead is contrasted with extinct. Latin is a dead language in almost all aspects, but not yet extinct.


That makes sense.
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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby Babelfish » 2013-07-05, 17:26

ling wrote:There are small groups of Latin enthusiasts who converse entirely in Latin together, and some classes that actually teach Latin as a spoken language. Many among this eclectic group call it "living Latin". One of the pioneers of teaching Latin as a spoken language is Fr. Reginald Foster, who for decades gave spoken Latin classes in Rome. Now he lives in Milwaukee, and apparently still teaches. I believe the University of Kentucky also offers Latin classes taught as a spoken language.
These enthusiasts also coin new words in Latin for modern terms, which IMO is no less important than using it - perhaps even more. I think even new books and songs are written in Latin.
Yasna wrote:There's no community of Latin speakers who pass it on to their kids. To me that is the only meaningful benchmark of life for languages. Everything else is just technicalities.
It's not a native language to anyone, apparently (there's a discussion about this possibility in some other thread), but IMO this doesn't mean it's dead. Esperanto also isn't native to anyone AFAIK, but it does have speakers and I just don't feel it's correct to call it "dead". There are minority languages with only a handful of native speakers left, being abandoned by younger generations, these I'd call "dying" - and languages such as Latin and Esperanto, which have enthusiast communities preserving and spreading them, are better off than those "dying" ones, aren't they?

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby IpseDixit » 2013-07-05, 17:33

"Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?


Hebrew was quite a dead language. If nowadays there are roughly 10 million native Hebrew speakers, someone must have learnt it as a "natural" language...

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby baradsonoron » 2013-07-07, 1:18

Examples of this:

-- Hebrew

-- Modern Cornish

-- Modern Manx

-- Klingon?

-- Ancient Greek/Latin
Bárád-dur, unákufênot
Bárád-dur, ais baraské mé paná
Bárád-dur, tukufartasc
Ais unápoton cuéfainaktat unágoladébupotone

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Re: "Dead" languages: Can be learned as natural ones?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-07-08, 2:19

Esperanto is not a dead language in the sense of having no native speakers, although I'm tempted to quote Tolkien on the matter:

Volapük, Esperanto, Ido, Novial &c &c are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends.
Hebrew was quite a dead language. If nowadays there are roughly 10 million native Hebrew speakers, someone must have learnt it as a "natural" language...
There aren't that many. Many Jews in North America and Europe study it for religious reasons, but they aren't native speakers.


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