The smallest language you've ever studied

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The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-29, 0:10

Lots of us on this forum have some amount of interest for languages that are not currently spoken by many people. Out of the living languages you're learning right now or have been learning lately, which one(s?) has the smallest number of native (or total) speakers? What about out of all the living languages you've ever studied, have dabbled in, know one or two words of, etc.? Have you ever studied any extinct languages? Which one(s)?

Out of the living languages I personally have been learning lately, the one with the smallest number of speakers is Light Warlpiri. However, within the speaker community, Light Warlpiri is perceived as simply another variety of Warlpiri, so if that doesn't count, then it would be Oirata. I can't think of any other language I ever seriously tried to learn with fewer speakers. I also study Latin and have tried Ancient Greek and Sanskrit before, though probably what I mostly studied in each of those cases was the literary language. I know a tiny bit of Ancient Egyptian as well.

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Yasna » 2017-03-29, 0:23

For recently studied languages, Korean. For my entire past, Norwegian. I like languages I can easily find uses for.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby TheStrayCat » 2017-03-29, 2:01

vijayjohn wrote:Out of the living languages you're learning right now or have been learning lately, which one(s?) has the smallest number of native (or total) speakers?

French. The other two have more speakers.

vijayjohn wrote:What about out of all the living languages you've ever studied, have dabbled in, know one or two words of, etc.?

Out of those that I actually studied, that would probably be Esperanto, which was my passion in my freshman year until I switched to Spanish. Out of those where I know one or two words - no idea, but let's say Faroese. :)

vijayjohn wrote:Have you ever studied any extinct languages? Which one(s)?

No, personally I've never been interested in them. I am always focused on languages which are spoken or written by someone living now, not at some point in the past.

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-29, 4:39

vijayjohn wrote:Out of the living languages you're learning right now or have been learning lately, which one(s?) has the smallest number of native (or total) speakers?
French. It's the only language I've studied with the goal of gaining some degree of fluency.

vijayjohn wrote:What about out of all the living languages you've ever studied, have dabbled in, know one or two words of, etc.?
Arpitan (~140,000 speakers; currently dabbling), Ligurian (~500,000; learned a bit a while ago), Occitan (~1-4 million), Piedmontese (~2 million).

Basically, I have a thing for minority Romance languages, and studying them helps with my conlanging.

vijayjohn wrote:Have you ever studied any extinct languages? Which one(s)?
I've studied Latin, for the same reason I study Romance languages. Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic in passing.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-03-29, 9:45

The smallest language I've seriously studied is Ladin with ~40,000 speakers, but the dialect I've studied has ~7,000 speakers.

The smallest language which I know two or three words of is Cimbrian with ~700 speakers.

I studied Latin in high school because it was a compulsory subject.

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby księżycowy » 2017-03-29, 10:11

Hmmm, let's see... :hmm:

As for my smallest language I've seriously tried to study at one time or another, I'd have to say probably either Lushootseed, Cayuga, Mohawk, Pitjantjatjara, or Arrernte. Take your pick, I'm not sure which has less speakers. :P

As for dabbling, multiple North American languages. Notibly small ones include, Tlingit, Haida, Coeur d'Alene, Colville-Okanagan, Shuswap, Oneida, and Seneca.

I've also messed around with some Ngaanyatjarra, Walpiri, and another Australian language I can't recall at the moment.

I've also been quite interested in the revival of Cornish and Manx. I've also messed around with some Neo-Aramaic from time to time as well.

Last but not least, I'm a huge nerd for ancient/extinct languages. I've formally learned Hebrew and Greek, and have dabbled in Latin, Old Church Slavic, Old Irish, Old and Middle English, Egyptian/Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Classical Japanese.

I actually intend to learn at least Latin and Aramaic.

You were probably not including older forms of still spoken languages when you said extinct, but I couldn't resist. :P

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Antea » 2017-03-29, 11:46

Lately, I have been taking a look at Karelian (Карельский язык).

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby voron » 2017-03-29, 11:52

I've been mostly dealing with more or less easily accessible languages so nothing too small on my list.

I dabbled in: Slovenian, Macedonian, Zazaki, 1-2 million speakers each, that must be the smallest.
I know some words in Pomak, for which wiki gives an estimate of 40.000 speakers. Yeah I used to be a huge fan of Slavic languages and wanted to learn them all before I discovered Turkish.

UPD: Oh and my semi-native Belarusian is considered endangered, too. Wiki cites 3 million speakers, but it may be much less if we require full proficiency.

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-29, 12:17

Dormouse559 wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:What about out of all the living languages you've ever studied, have dabbled in, know one or two words of, etc.?
Arpitan (~140,000 speakers; currently dabbling), Ligurian (~500,000; learned a bit a while ago), Occitan (~1-4 million), Piedmontese (~2 million).

Basically, I have a thing for minority Romance languages, and studying them helps with my conlanging.

I'm curious; how do you find resources for these languages?
księżycowy wrote:As for my smallest language I've seriously tried to study at one time or another, I'd have to say probably either Lushootseed, Cayuga, Mohawk, Pitjantjatjara, or Arrernte. Take your pick, I'm not sure which has less speakers. :P

Since I figured out which of my own set of minority languages was the smallest, I think I'll try to help other users here figure that out, too. :) Out of these, Lushootseed definitely has the fewest, as it has no fully fluent native speakers as of 2008.
As for dabbling, multiple North American languages. Notibly small ones include, Tlingit, Haida, Coeur d'Alene, Colville-Okanagan, Shuswap, Oneida, and Seneca.

I've also messed around with some Ngaanyatjarra, Walpiri, and another Australian language I can't recall at the moment.

I would think Coeur d'Alene was the smallest of those as it was estimated to have only two speakers left ten years ago, although revival efforts have apparently been somewhat successful.
I've also been quite interested in the revival of Cornish and Manx. I've also messed around with some Neo-Aramaic from time to time as well.

Last but not least, I'm a huge nerd for ancient/extinct languages. I've formally learned Hebrew and Greek, and have dabbled in Latin, Old Church Slavic, Old Irish, Old and Middle English, Egyptian/Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Classical Japanese.

I actually intend to learn at least Latin and Aramaic.

Cool!
You were probably not including older forms of still spoken languages when you said extinct, but I couldn't resist. :P

Of course I'm including older forms of still spoken languages! After all, I said Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit myself, and those are all the older forms of the Romance languages, Greek, and Indo-Aryan languages respectively. :)

I will admit, though, that I forgot to mention that I've read a bit of Middle English, had to read a few samples of Old Spanish for a Spanish literature class, had to read maybe one sample of Middle French for a French literature class, have seen a few examples of Old French, and read only a tiny bit of Old English (I finished high school early and avoided having to read Beowulf, but I have a copy anyway because I bought it from Half Price Books once! :D). I guess I also have a passing familiarity with Classical Chinese and have been exposed to a whole bunch of extinct languages even if I remember nothing from any of them.
voron wrote:I dabbled in: Slovenian, Macedonian, Zazaki, 1-2 million speakers each, that must be the smallest.

I would guess Zazaki was the smallest of these unless you went out and learned all two or three varieties of Zazaki. :P

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Vlürch » 2017-03-29, 12:47

Hmm, it's hard to say, considering my approach of "learn all the languages of a given family at once!" and never getting that far with anything... I mean, if mutual intelligibility between related languages and through loanwords and whatnot doesn't count, it's even more difficult to figure out, but in any case it's almost certainly Kazakh because I've been into it for a while and remember quite a lot of words and grammar stuff; I wouldn't be able to have an actual in-depth conversation about anything with a monolingual Kazakh-speaker, though, so I don't know if even that counts. Mongolian is something I was really into for a while and remember enough to understand little bits and pieces (in writing (well, at least in the Cyrillic or Latin alphabet (but not in the Mongolian script))), although my interest in it dropped significantly for a while after learning that the /l/ is pretty much always pronounced [ɮ] or [ɬ] and shit.

As for endangered or extinct languages, I used to be alright in Latin but have gotten really rusty. I know a few words of Sumerian, Sanskrit and a bunch of other ancient languages, but pretty much nothing about any of their grammar, so...

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby księżycowy » 2017-03-29, 12:49

You reminded me that forgot my flings with Classical Chinese, Classical Tibetan, Classical Mongolian, Sanskrit and Sumerian, Vijay.

And I guess I didn't read your initial post well enough. :P

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Osias » 2017-03-29, 13:00

I tried to find things in Occitan, things I like to see/read/consume in the languages I practice, like songs, tweets, blogs, webradios, youtubers... Only then I realized how small it was. Even smaller than Catalan. Actually, Catalan is huge.

When I found a webradio and listen to it some minutes, they were talking about soccer, I think, and I couldn't see the difference between that and Catalan.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Car » 2017-03-29, 13:22

Of the languages I studied a bit lately, that has to be Western Frisian (470,000 speakers), of the ones I learnt seriously, Esperanto or, if you believe the higher estimates for number of speakers, Norwegian (Bokmål). I'm not interested in ancient languages at all.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Vlürch » 2017-03-29, 13:38

Osias wrote:I tried to find things in Occitan, things I like to see/read/consume in the languages I practice, like songs, tweets, blogs, webradios, youtubers... Only then I realized how small it was. Even smaller than Catalan. Actually, Catalan is huge.

When I found a webradio and listen to it some minutes, they were talking about soccer, I think, and I couldn't see the difference between that and Catalan.

IIRC, there are lots of different dialects of Occitan divided into some kind of groupings based on which other language they have more in common with (French, Catalan and "pure" Occitan, I think?) or something, with some dialects being more or less literally Catalan spelled differently while on the other end some are Frenchified to the point of being more French than French. I could be wrong, though.

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-29, 13:57

vijayjohn wrote:I'm curious; how do you find resources for these languages?
By googling around a lot basically. Knowing French (and having passive Italian knowledge) has been essential, since most websites and books about these languages are in French or Italian. And there are actually a few pretty good sites out there. I can give you links if you're interested.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby eskandar » 2017-03-29, 22:38

vijayjohn wrote:Out of the living languages you're learning right now or have been learning lately, which one(s?) has the smallest number of native (or total) speakers?

I can't even answer this one - all of the languages I'm actively working on are pretty huge.
What about out of all the living languages you've ever studied, have dabbled in, know one or two words of, etc.?

I dabbled in Gilaki (4 million native speakers in 2006 according to Ethnologue, though I strongly doubt that - if you only count those who can fluently speak it and not just passively understand it, the number must be a fraction of that) and Mazandarani (5.5 million; same caveats) and still remember a few words and phrases.

Have you ever studied any extinct languages? Which one(s)?

Does classical Arabic count? I've studied it fairly deeply, though it's probably the largest and most-used classical language on the planet, so it's not exactly rare. Otherwise I took Latin very briefly as a kid (wasn't interested at the time and have no memory of it) and dabbled in Chaghatai, which I'd like to learn properly someday.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-30, 0:32

Vlürch wrote:I don't know if even that counts.

It counts. :)
Mongolian is something I was really into for a while and remember enough to understand little bits and pieces (in writing (well, at least in the Cyrillic or Latin alphabet (but not in the Mongolian script))), although my interest in it dropped significantly for a while after learning that the /l/ is pretty much always pronounced [ɮ] or [ɬ] and shit.

Then that has even fewer speakers than Kazakh and still counts! :D (And yes, mutually intelligible language varieties count, too, at least if you want to make them count :P)
I used to be alright in Latin

Oh, no kidding! :)
IIRC, there are lots of different dialects of Occitan divided into some kind of groupings based on which other language they have more in common with (French, Catalan and "pure" Occitan, I think?) or something, with some dialects being more or less literally Catalan spelled differently while on the other end some are Frenchified to the point of being more French than French. I could be wrong, though.

There are six dialects of Occitan each spoken in different regions of the Occitan-speaking world (mostly France).
Dormouse559 wrote:I can give you links if you're interested.

Please do! :)
eskandar wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:Out of the living languages you're learning right now or have been learning lately, which one(s?) has the smallest number of native (or total) speakers?

I can't even answer this one - all of the languages I'm actively working on are pretty huge.

But so are Yasna's and TheStrayCat's, yet they did answer the question. ;) Of all of the languages in your profile, if we ignore Chagatai since it's an extinct language, then the one with the smallest number of speakers is Yiddish. If we then ignore the ones that you don't have any stars for, then it's Armenian. Out of the ones listed on your TAC, it appears to be Italian, at least in terms of total number of speakers. :)
Does classical Arabic count?

Sure!

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby eskandar » 2017-03-30, 0:49

vijayjohn wrote:Of all of the languages in your profile, if we ignore Chagatai since it's an extinct language, then the one with the smallest number of speakers is Yiddish. If we then ignore the ones that you don't have any stars for, then it's Armenian. Out of the ones listed on your TAC, it appears to be Italian, at least in terms of total number of speakers. :)

Oh, I forgot about Yiddish, that's got to be the smallest language I've dabbled in, and that's another I'd really like to learn well. I still think of Armenian as pretty massive. It only has a few more millions of native speakers than Gilaki or Mazandarani (even if we take Ethnologue's claims for those languages at face value) but Armenian is spoken by a widespread and successful diaspora and has official status in a country. It has a fairly huge written corpus, is well-documented and has lots of learning materials for non-natives, is taught in universities, and is not going anywhere. Meanwhile Gilaki and Mazandarani have barely anything written in them, are moribund and confined to a small region, are poorly documented with almost no learning resources, and as far as I know are not even taught in Iranian universities, let alone anywhere else. Now this has me wondering what language has the greatest discrepancy between (low) number of native speakers and (high) amount of status, learning resources, and literature. Probably Maltese, another small language I'd really like to study someday.
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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-30, 0:59

eskandar wrote:Now this has me wondering what language has the greatest discrepancy between (low) number of native speakers and (high) amount of status, learning resources, and literature.

Sanskrit? :lol:

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Re: The smallest language you've ever studied

Postby Yasna » 2017-03-30, 0:59

eskandar wrote:Now this has me wondering what language has the greatest discrepancy between (low) number of native speakers and (high) amount of status, learning resources, and literature.

Irish perhaps?
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