It’s a story we’ve heard before, a rather amusing one at first glance: what happens when the two last speakers of a language… simply refuse to talk to each other?!
Beyond the anecdote reported in The Guardian, the article turns the light towards a misknown language of the Tabasco region in Mexico, Ayapaneco, also known as Nuumte Oote, meaning « the real voice ». It had survived the Spanish conquest, wars, famines and floods, but today only two people are able to speak it fluently: Manuel Segovia, aged 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, who both live in the village of Ayapa, only 500 yards away from each other. Everyone spoke Ayapaneco in their childhood; nowadays Manuel Segovia is the only one to use it, with his wife and son, who still understand the language but are unable to speak it.
Manuel Segovia by Jaime Avalos (EPA)
What might have been so deadly to this ancient language in just half a century? First education in Spanish since the mid 20th century, along with the children being forbidden to speak indigenous languages, followed by the urbanization and migrations of the 70s, sealed the fate of Nuumte Oote.
Daniel Suslak, an anthropologist of Indiana University, is working on the creation of an Ayapaneco dictionary. A race against time given the lack of sources and the age of the two speakers.
The Guardian also point out that Mexico counts 68 languages nowadays, shared over 364 different variations. The article also draws a list of some of the most endangered languages in the world, those bearing only a handful of speakers left.
Read article published by The Guardian
Read article published by Milenio (in Spanish)
Read our description sheet on Ayapaneco