Encounters with Extinction

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water? No! It’s true. Things are getting livelier with the extension of cooperation between EKI (the Estonian Language Institute, in Tallinn) and the NLF (National Library of Finland, in Helsinki). The partners have agreed to “further develop professional cooperation” by 1)  promoting the joint Digitization Project of Kindred Languages to enhance scholarly communication and research, 2) promoting the data exchange in the course of Fenno-Ugrica database that aims for sharing the digitized material Livonian languages and 3) Promoting the data exchange in the course of Uralica Hub Project that aims for sharing the bibliographical information on digitized publications in Livonian languages held at the repositories of the both institutions, the EKI and the NLF.

All these attempts of promoting various aspirations are bound to be realized today, when the NLF releases the first set of texts in Livonian at Fenno-Ugrica and Uralica. The Livonian newspaper Līvli (1931-39) was the first periodical published in the Livonian language and thus its importance in the shaping of the written and codified Livonian was significant. The uses and practices of Livonian changed due to Līvli, and thanks to its iterative publishing cycle, the issues of Līvli facilitated the modification of the orthography, broadened the vocabulary and developed the grammars. Līvli also played an important role when it came to the introduction of new words into Livonian – the topics covered in its pages vary from foreign and domestic politics to religion, from everyday practices to modernization of society. Līvli is also a historically important source, since it highlights the life of one language society during one decade, the 1930s.

When the number of speakers of a given language declines, the language as an intricate bundle of communication media becomes reticent. It is not the duty of researchers to push languages encountering language demise or near extinction into the abyss of death by limiting native speaker status to people who are elderly and disallow speakers who have dedicated 10 years of their youthful lives to an education in another language. Researchers should be looked to for encouragement and assistance in the revitalization of a language. Hence Livonian publications, such as Līvli, documenting language usage from the 1930s, is an essential resource to enliven the language usage of a community determined to carry on.

When the number of speakers of a given language declines, the language as an intricate bundle of communication media becomes reticent. It is not the duty of researchers to push languages encountering language demise or near extinction into the abyss of death by limiting native speaker status to people who are elderly and disallow speakers who have dedicated 10 years of their youthful lives to an education in another language. Researchers should be looked to for encouragement and assistance in the revitalization of a language. Hence Livonian publications, such as Līvli, documenting language usage from the 1930s, is an essential resource to enliven the language usage of a community determined to carry on.

Līvli is now available as a raw, searchable pdf on the Fenno-Ugrica site. The rawness of the OCR (requiring additional work) does not prevent usability of the materials. In fact, this newly accessible resource can already be partially analyzed using the Kone Foundation funded open-source analyzer at Giellatekno. This material has already been used in the development of lexical and syntactic descriptions of the Balto-Finnic Livonian language but we see this new accessibility as an opportunity to make discoveries through computer assisted language documentation and learning.

For further information on Livonian cultures and languages, please, discover these sources for reading:

Renāte Blumberga: Oskar Loorits ja liivlased.

Liivlased. Ajalugu, keel ja kultuur. Edited by Renāte Blumberga, Tapio Mäkeläinen and Karl Pajusalu. Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn 2011.

Tutkielmia vähemmistökielistä Jäämereltä Liivinrantaan. Edited by Hannakaisa Holmi and Helena Sulkala. Faculty of Humanities, Department of Finnish, Information Studies and Logopedics, University of Oulu, Oulu 2006.

For professional use, or just playing around, take a look at the Livonian-Finnish web dictionary too.

 

Yours &c.,

Jussi-Pekka Hakkarainen and Jack Rueter

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *