Is the Cornish Language extinct?

On Saturday morning I came across this article in the Saturday Independent discussing how the Cornish language had been declared extinct by the UN, and a couple of quotes caught my attention

‘Unesco’s director general, Koichiro Matsuura, said: “The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it – from poems and legends to proverbs and jokes.”

There are thought to be just 300 fluent speakers of Cornish left and Jenefer Lowe, development manager of the Cornish Language Partnership, says reports of its extinction are premature. “Saying Cornish is extinct implies that there are no speakers and the language is dead, which it isn’t,”’

UNESCO say this about Cornish language:

UNESCO Endangered Languages for the UKName of the language: Traditional Cornish (en); cornique traditionnel (fr); корнский традиционный (ru)

Vitality: extinct

Number of speakers: 0 (the death of the last speaker of traditional Cornish probably took place in 1777)

Location(s): Cornwall, England; the entry deals with traditional Cornish; Cornish is currently being revived and exists in three different versions; revived Cornish cannot be regarded as endangered as the number of users seems to be constantly growing

So it look like there may have been a little confusion here, but it is good to read about how small languages can survive and even grow even in today’s generic society.

The article goes on to mention other British languages such as Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Manx and it reminded me of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential web site which is well worth checking out for its Local Language Program that ‘…represents the Microsoft commitment to helping more people worldwide benefit from technology, while striving to preserve local languages and cultural identities. This means making software available in as many languages as possible.’

Microsoft actually provides a Welsh LIP (Language Interface Pack) which can assist the over 500,000 Welsh speakers use Windows in there their chosen language, you can download the pack here (Pecyn Rhyngwyneb Iaith Windows Vista)

You can read more about UNESCO’s Atlas of the worlds Languages in Danger and view the world map in pdf and use an interactive map using Google maps to search for languages and there vitality, and read about details of each language.  Which are all pretty good resources if you are interested in this topic.


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