One of many obscure endangered languages …..
Ayapaneco, or ‘Nuumte Oote’, is fading away;
only two speakers remaining today.
The linguists are rushing to record what they say
before it’s too late
and this Indian dialect suffers its fate.
But Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez
won’t entertain what the other one says.
Manuel, Isidro in a weird fiasco
in some pueblecito, known as Tabasco,
won’t speak to each other in Ayapaneco
or Nuumte Oote, to give it its other name.
They don’t talk, they won’t meet,
there’s some cussedness streak
or maybe some feud of which they don’t speak.
It’s a linguaphile’s nightmarish game.
How do you pronounce “oote”?
Is it “oote” like “hooter”
or “oote” as in “book”, or “oote” like a “boot”?
That’s what the linguists want to find oot
as someone from Scotland would say.
And what about “Nuumte”?
Is the “e” silent or pronounced as in “be”?
Can we get what they say?
Perhaps it’s like “bet” or even “café”?
Is “Nuumte”, “Nuumte”
like “Humpty Dumpty”?
or is the “nuum” just as in “bum”
or similar to “rheum”, or maybe like “room”
or possibly like something else.
Velazquez would know, Segovia too.
Will they agree what it could be?
if only we knew how they would say
before the language dies away.
Hasta la vista, baby.
2nd July 2013 – headline from the Guardian
Notes: “Language at risk of dying out – the last two speakers aren’t talking.” The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it’s at risk of extinction. Ayapaneco has always been a “linguistic island” surrounded by much stronger indigenous languages. Its demise was sealed by the advent of education in Spanish in the mid 20th century, which for several decades included the explicit prohibition on indigenous children speaking anything else. There are just two people left, Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez, who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other. The name Ayapaneco is an imposition by outsiders, and Segovia and Velazquez call their language Nuumte Oote, which means the True Voice.