What’s lost? Who will even know? (comment on botkin entry)

Of all that is being lost in turmoil and conflict in the Caucasus right now, this has to break a linguist’s heart. Is there hope that someone somewhere has been working with this? Or the other 40-plus languages of the region?

Once again thanks to The New York Times and John Freivalds () August 24, 2008

The World:  Barriers That Are Steep and Linguistic By ELLEN BARRY:  To understand the conflict in Georgia, listen to how people speak in the Caucasus.

“A language is the prime indication of the existence of a people,” said George Hewitt, a University of London scholar of Abkhaz, the language spoken in Abkhazia, another separatist region of Georgia. “If a language dies, the culture dies as well. The people will become assimilated.”

One more question to be answered in the calm that comes after the end of fighting: Caucasian expert Dr. Anna V. Dybo at the Russian Academy of Sciences has yet to hear from a library in Tskhinvali, which held a magisterial lexicon of the Ossetian language that was compiled over the course of many years. It’s a single manuscript, never transferred to a computer.

She is not sure, she said, but she thinks it burned up on Aug. 8.

“She is not sure. . . .”


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