Sociolinguistics: Part 9

Sociolinguistics: Part 9

Language is a powerful tool.
Irene Yi
Irene Yi
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This week, we will continue our discussion on language death.

So far, we have addressed the many ways language can die: the death of populations of speakers, and -- if they are still alive -- the death of their linguistic self worth. When the elders are the last speakers of a language and they don’t pass it down, that language dies. This might not be what the elders want, but it’s what they choose in order to help their descendants better adapt to a modernizing world. It’s kind of like a linguistic natural selection: those who are able to speak globalized languages are able to fare better in the global society, which gives them a better chance at living and becoming involved globally. However, these elders know what their young stand to lose by letting go of their mother tongue. The young, then, know what the loss of a cultural identity feels like: their own heritage becomes foreign.

This week, though, we are talking about the revival of dead languages.

The previously mentioned boy prodigy who learned the Selk’nam language is a boy named Keyuk. Keyuk took his love of books to studying this language, reading old archives and examining the grammar and lexicon of Selk’nam. He made a name for himself in the linguistics world, and many were drawn to him with suspicion and curiosity. How could anyone confirm whether or not he was speaking the language correctly if there was no other living speaker?

Keyuk was said to be the only living speaker of Selk'nam. There may have been other people who understood and spoke the language in the past, but they might have stopped speaking it because everyone else did. So, Keyuk set out to find other speakers of Selk'nam. He and another researcher set out to interview Selknam tribe survivors. They were all elders who had given up speaking the language, but still treasured their identity.

One woman, Herminia Vera, had not spoken Selk'nam in eighty years. Like Keyuk's mom, Vera had spoken Selk'nam as a child. Due to the teasing from others for her culture, she stopped speaking the language of her childhood. As she began to converse with Keyuk, though, the languages and memories came flooding back. Now, at an old age, Vera was able to connect with this part of her identity that her native tongue had kept hidden all these years.

It must have been a sign from the Powers That Be for Keyuk to have found this woman when he did, because she passed away just two months after their encounter.

Keyuk is not alone in his efforts to revive languages. There are countless Native American tribe members working to bring back their mother tongues. There are even more people -- from researchers to the daily avid linguistics fan -- who want to help in any way they can.

But more on that next time. Stay tuned!

Cover Image Credit: Irene Yi

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.

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I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

Cover Image Credit: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/free-college-new-york-state.jpg?quality=85

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Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.

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I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

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