Hope dim for True Voice’s prospects

The language Nuumte Oote, meaning True Voice, is spoken by only two people, one 69 and one 75. And they do not talk to each other.

Known to us as Tabasco Zoque, or Ayapaneco (zoq), the language was not listed on the English Wikipedia until today. The Spanish Wikipedia has a stub article on the language as well.

Spoken in Tabasco, a Mexican state bordering Guatemala, Ayapaneco was spoken by around 8000 families around a half-century ago, but rapidly diminished after a highway was constructed and many residents moved to larger towns. (Could it be that there are isolated Ayapaneco speakers in other regions somewhere?)

As part of the effort to save Ayapaneco, classes were held in the past, but the initial enthusiasm was not maintained. The Instituto Nacional de la Lengua Indígena (National Indigenous Languages Institute or INALI) is planning on one last attempt to get classes going.

Daniel Suslak, a linguist at Indiana University, Bloomington, in the US has been compiling a dictionary of Ayapaneco which is scheduled for publication later this year. That project is in conjunction with the Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica (PDLMA).

This article was inspired and informed by “Language at risk of dying out – the last two speakers aren’t talking” on the Guardian and “Mexican Indian Language Appears Headed for Extinction” on the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Addition: See also “Dying Language Speakers Won’t Talk To Each Other” on NPR for a short audio clip.


4 Responses to “Hope dim for True Voice’s prospects”

  1. Charles Fennig Says:

    The language called Ayapaneco in this article is actually in the Ethnologue, as Tabasco Zoque, ISO [zoq]. The information dates back to 1971, when there were 40 speakers of the language. It is good to have this update!


    Charles Fennig
    Managing Editor

    • wakablogger Says:

      Thank you so much for this kind information. I have updated the entry and also added the ISO code to the category tag: Ayapaneco (zoq).


  2. Nate Says:

    Interesting information NPR ran a spot today about this language.

  3. wakablogger Says:

    Thank you for this tip, Nate! I’ve added the link.

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