Category Archives: Language

Another lost language

A sad tale from BBC:

A woman believed to be the last native speaker of the Eyak language in the north-western US state of Alaska has died at the age of 89.

Marie Smith Jones was a champion of indigenous rights and conservation. She died at her home in Anchorage.

She helped the University of Alaska compile an Eyak dictionary, so that future generations would have the chance to resurrect it.

Ms Jones is described by her family as a tiny chain smoking woman who was fiercely independent.

None of her nine children learned to speak the language, and there are 20 more Alaskan tongues in danger of dying out. πŸ™

On identity

Applying for your residency visa involves filling about a ridiculous amount of forms and getting a medical. But some of the questions asked on the application throw up questions about myself.

One is “religion/sect”. I seldom refer to religion when talking about myself — I don’t like labels. But this was a required question: and so down on the form went “Christian/Catholic”. I can’t say I’m accustomed to referring to the divisions of Christianity as sects, even though that’s exactly what they are. For me the word conjures up images of small, close-knit groups.

Of course such divisions do not apply solely to Christianity, there is a large one in Islam as well. But again — and even though I’m familiar with the word from Northern Irish history — the word “sect” doesn’t quite capture it for me. My brain doesn’t seem to want to accept it.

I’m not used to thinking of myself as a “Westerner” either, though the term is in common usage regarding surveys by one of the papers here. Is that my own bias, or do people of all nations who relocate find themselves in the same jarring situation?

My name has also proved interesting. Nobody can pronounce the English form correctly, so there is much confusion when they see my Irish one. Which, incidentally, has had at least five different spelling variations since I got here. Trying to explain that Irish people have names in both the Irish and English languages doesn’t seem to work as well as I’d like. That said most people seem cool with it. I just wish people would spell the damn thing right!

ADDENDUM: Facebook has again been blocked at work, so I can’t regularly check messages or play Scrabulous etc. Getting the web at home is not as straightforward as it appears, as is much here. FB access depends on finding internet cafes, and I may only get in once or twice a week until further notice.

Links o' the day

How the Edwardians spoke. I don’t really care about Edwardians, I just like examining how language changes over the decades.

A sad day for internet freedoms in China. Traffic from search engines Yahoo!, and Google are being redirected to Chinese-owned Bastards.

How to make a floating skull illusion. Don’t tell me you’ve never wanted to do this!

Why Facebook needs money: data centres. The snowballing social networing site has taken out a lease on a 10,000sq ft facility to house data servers.

Lessons learned from a near disaster. Please excuse me while I back up my hard drive…

Canadian paedophile suspect arrested in Thailand. Oh, they’re gonna love him in prison!

And last, but by no means least, 10 ways to geek out this Hallowe’en.


Links of the day

I’m under pressure, but here’s what I’ve found:

Howto make a Barbie electric chair. So good I have to show you the picture:


(Boing Boing)

Depression feels worse than many chronic diseases: study. I’m not at all surprised. (AFP)

Siemens, Microsoft develop car products. Everything from information to navigation… Microsoft shall rule the universe one day. Or at least have a market presence everywhere. (AP)

Bush, after talks with Hu, accepts invitation to Beijing Olympics. Human rights groups will not be pleased, but then Bush’s record isn’t exactly brimming with examples of good behaviour. (International Herald Tribune)Cleesawns, hallions, tippers and who-but-me’s. Colloquialisms from 1960s Ireland. (Michael Nugent)

Thinking of words can guide your wheelchair. Technology freakin’ rocks. (New Scientist)

Links of the day

One for us word nerds: Instructor creates cuneiform and hieroglyphic translator. Sadly I can’t see my name in Egyptian. Site still rocks though. (

Bloggers are screwed: This journal may disappear at any time. LiveJournal tells its members that posting links must be treated in the same way as posting the material itself must be treated. (Liz Marcs)

Ah, capitalism: US weapons, given to Iraqis, move to Turkey. Guns given to Iraq’s security forces by the US military have been recovered after use in violent crimes in Turkey. (International Herald Tribune)

Highwire: Russian village’s tightrope walking prowess. Nearly every man, woman and child in the remote mountain village of Tsovkra-1 can walk the tightrope. (Reuters)

Naughty boy? Olbermann re-enacts Senator Craig bathroom scene. Using the police report, Keith Olbermann recreates the incident which saw the US senator arrested after allegedly seeking some same-stall action with a policeman. (Crooks and Liars)

Protecting the nation’s interests: China passes new anti-monopoly law. Twill make it harder for foreign firms to buy Chinese companies. (AFP)

International relations: Should we be worried about Russia and China ganging up on the West? No, according to Ian Bremmer. That’s a relief. (Slate)