Among the wonderful findings in the 2009 HRELP conference Langauge Documentation & Linguistic Theory 2 is a paper on Minderico, a language in Portugal. Titled “Minderico: an endangered language in Portugal,” the paper by Vera Ferreira and Peter Bouda describes the origin of Minderico as a way to keep secrets from others during business dealings. The article notes that with the pressures of Portuguese, there were only a few hundred speakers as of around 2006. One of the points of the paper is that there are languages still unknown even in Western Europe, where the status of languages is generally thought to be well understood. Indeed, the Ethnologue does not have a listing for Minderico. See also Languages of Portugal for dialect details of Portuguese and Portuguese Sign Language (psr).
A large percentage of the world’s population speaks at least two languages. Research now shows that in addition to increasing one’s ability to communicate with others, bilingualism may have the health benefit of delaying dementia. See more at the Telegraph: Speaking a second language could delay dementia by five years. It is not clear whether this talk is available. Although there was a talk scheduled by Ellen Bialystok in February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the recordings from that conference have only one item by her, with a different title and other authors.
Latin (lat), the language of the ancient Romans, developed into Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and all of the other Romance languages. Monks and others in the Catholic Church continued using Latin as a written and religious language, and it underwent changes through those uses as well. For generations, pupils have been told that Latin is not for speaking, but that is no longer the case. For one resource, see Septentrionale Americanum Latinitatis Vivae Institutum. Their next large immersion gathering, Rusticatio, will take place in the eastern US state of West Virginia from July 9 to 16. The cost for everything except transportation to and from is USD 825. This news item was inspired by the blog post “Finding a ‘dead language’ alive and well in the Eternal City.”
Additional note on Latin: Check out the FAQ page of the Septentrionale Americanum Latinitatis Vivae Institutum. To get started in speaking Latin, their advice is to start by speaking. They say, “Make simple sentences with the words you already know – ‘Habito Baltimorae’ (I live in Baltimore), ‘Sunt mihi duo fratres’ (I have two siblings).” Although not complete by any means, two great resources for finding Latin words are Wikipedia and Wiktionary. For example, go to the Wikipedia entry for London, and find the Latina entry in the left column. This option is available for the London entry on Wiktionary as well, but also note there is a translation section that shows the Latin translation if you click on the “Show” button.