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as we see out the final quarter of 2018 and i continue with my three-year [close enough] project of trying to learn every language in the world, i find myself excited by the news that 2019 has been designated as the year of indigenous languages by the united nations. this was announced back in 2016 but it's now upon us and hopefully, this will see an uptick in attention being paid to the vast array of languages in the world. [and how many of them are threatened.]

"indigenous languages" in this case refers to those spoken by small groups native to areas, most of which have been colonized or where the populations of different groups are isolated enough that there are substantial differences even over short distances. in a broader sense, all languages are and aren't indigenous to somewhere. english could be said to be indigenous to england. on the other hand, we know that english is a language that developed from a combination of latin-, germanic- and french-speaking invaders and that they displaced people already living on the islands, who spoke celtic languages. nevertheless, nobody would consider english an indigenous language in a global sense. by contrast, the inuit language came to the canadian north not long before the arrival of europeans [and displaced the dorset people who had been there before] but would be recognized as indigenous. for the purposes of 2019, "indigenous" is used as a synonym for "marginalized"- people whose cultures have been suppressed or at least lack government protection.

the question of protection is a tricky one. it's not like governments can offer comprehensive services in all indigenous languages. papua new guinea has 841 documented languages, most of which have well less than a thousand speakers. india has twelve official languages but that's from a total of 455. and even then, the availability of services in each of the twelve languages is largely determined on a regional level. but that doesn't mean that governments shouldn't take some steps to ensure that indigenous languages are supported and passed down to new generations. and that's the sort of thing that the u.n. [specifically unesco] is trying to inspire in the coming year.

duolingo, which i use as my primary language-learning tool, has implicitly thrown its support behind the initiative, by putting courses in hawaiian and navajo into development. i expect those will be launched early in the new year and making an effort to acquire a little of one or both of those will likely constitute my entire contribution to the year. beyond that, the only thing that individuals can do is support programs to make learning and sharing indigenous languages easier and to support programs that give increased resources and autonomy to indigenous people. it's also worth taking a little time [you have a year, after all] to read up on the challenges facing different indigenous groups. knowing is indeed half the battle.

the image at the top of this post is a snapshot of a truly amazing interactive map built by ethnologue. the page is linked earlier in the post but in case you missed it, the "live" version is available here. our linguistic diversity is truly staggering and as one of the only uniquely human attributes, it's something that's worth of protection.  


as long as you're here, why not read more?

white trash

yes, my lovelies, i have returned from the dead, at least for the time it takes me to write this post. this is not just another piece of observational drivel about how i haven't been taking care of the blog lately, although i clearly haven't. on that front, though, the principal cause of my absence has actually been due to me trying to get another, somewhat related project, off the ground. unfortunately, that project has met with some frustrating delays which means that anyone who follows this blog [perhaps there are still a few of you who haven't entirely given up] would understandably be left with the impression that i'd simply forsaken more like space to marvel at the complexity of my own belly button lint. [it's possible you had that impression even before i disappeared.]

ok, enough with that. i have a subject i wanted to discuss with you, in the sense that i will want and encourage you to respond with questions, concerns and criticism in the comments or by em…

i'm definitely someone altogether different

about a hundred years ago, i remember having a partner who told me that, rather than writing the sort of ambiance-oriented crap [he didn't say crap, i'm saying it] that i was naturally driven to write, i should just compose something like the harry potter books. this wasn't out of any sense of challenging me to do new things but because of the desperate hope that my love of writing could be parlayed into something profitable.

my reaction at the time was "i just can't". and that was honestly how i felt because i didn't believe that that kind of story was in me. for the record, i still don't think that anything like the potter-hogwarts universe is in me. i'm not a fan of fantasy literature generally speaking and i feel like there's a richer experience to be examined in looking at our experience as regular humans being part of the rational, limited, everyday world and at the same time being able to feel connected to something that, for lack of a…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…