New York City – an endangered language hotspot?
A New York Times article from April of this year highlights the effort of the Endangered Language Alliance, a group of individuals who have taken upon the mighty task of working towards documenting languages that are endangered, starting with the many communities in New York City. Some experts estimate there are as many as 800 languages spoken there, far more than official census records show. The immigrants who have flocked to the city give rise for many opportunities to investigate the pockets of languages that continue to be spoken – the challenge, no doubt, is to find them.
On Long Island, researchers have found several people fluent in Mandaic, a Persian variation of Aramaic spoken by a few hundred people around the world. One of them, Dakhil Shooshtary, 76, a retired jeweler who settled on Long Island from Iran 45 years ago, is compiling a Mandaic dictionary.
The ELA has organized a few town meetings as well as local lectures at CUNY. If you’re in the area, be sure to follow their progress.