Monday, December 25, 2023

Languages at Risk in North Caucasus Can Be Saved If Parents Encourage Their Youngest Children to Use Them, Vamling Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 22 – While government support and demography play key roles in whether numerically small languages can survive, parents in these communities can make a major contribution to their survival if they encourage their children under the age of 13 to use them in their daily life, Karina Vamling says.

            The professor linguistics at Malmö University says that only those who learn a language before about that age can learn it to perfection. Older people can learn a language but not to the same degree. And that makes what families do regarding languages critical (

            She says that parents in the North Caucasus need to overcome the mistaken notion that using more than one language is a burden on their children. In fact, Vamling argues, those who grow up using two or more languages have cognitive and other advantages over those who learn only one.

            In an interview with Mairbek Vachagayev of the Kavkazr portal, she makes a number of additional noteworthy observations:

·       “The Circassian diaspora is unite in that typically people in emigration lose their language over three generations. But many Circassians have been able to keep it alive through eight or nine.”

·       Bilingualism is “the first step to assimilation,” but it is also necessary in a polyethnic milieu.

·       Numerically small language communities in Daghestan like the Batbiy and Ude are at the greatest risk of disappearing in the coming decades.

·       The last native speaker of  Ubykh has died but there is an effort to revive the language in Turkey.

·       Language “plays a central role in the expression of ethnic identity,” but there are other bases as well, as the Circassian attachment to its unique moral code shows.

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