April 21, 2011: articles on the Dusner language, spoken by 3 last speakers.
A race against time has been launched by researchers of the University of Oxford to document the Dusner language, one of the world’s 130 languages spoken by less than 10 people.
The existence of this language was discovered by a crew of linguists in Dusner, a fishing village lost in the jungle of the island of Papua, Indonesia. They feared the worst when most of the village was swept away by floods. One of the last speakers of Dusner died, but two others survived.
The third person who speaks Dusner is a woman of age 60 living in the city of Jogjakarta. Just a few days after the flooding, however, she had to face a volcano blast near her hometown, with no way of being evacuated…
Tragic events that increased the feeling of an emergency to record and document the language: the three last speakers could pass away overnight, not to mention that they are respectively aged 45, 60 and 70 years old, and that the life expectancy of Indonesia is 71. Therefore, Pr. Dalrymple has set about recording them during the following months, have them tell their lives and stories, and execute their traditional ceremonies so as to preserve a trace of them for future generations.
Indeed non-speakers of Dusner seem attached to their culture and are willing to use some of its expressions on certain occasions. An attachment that could be emerging a little late, unfortunately, after the elders have stopped handing down their language to their children thinking they would have better chances of social success if they spoke Malay, the main language of Indonesia.
Full article on the University of Oxford website
Documentation on the Dusner language and more information on the three last speakers
Article in the Daily Telegraph
And in The Australian