John Van Way, a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii, sat down with Chengdu Living to talk about Nyarong Minyag, the endangered language he has spent the last year researching and documenting.
John shares his experience living in Chengdu, his thoughts on the cultural and political significance of a language’s survival, and much more in this 49-minute long podcast.
1:00 Basic details of John’s language documentation project on Nyarong Minyag
1:20 How John ended up studying this language in this part of the world
2:10 What qualifies as an endangered language?
3:10 Language-related identity politics
3:40 How to determine if a language is endangered
4:10 The Endangered Languages Catalogue and endangeredlanguages.com database
5:20 The difficulties of language revitalization and the success stories of Hawaiian and Gaelic
7:00 Latin’s status as a “zombie language”
8:15 Documenting the language for future use
8:40 The broader cultural implications of language extinction and language revitalization
10:00 John’s Louisiana heritage and personal experience with language extinction
10:45 The political implications of language communities shrinking
11:45 Ganzi autonomous prefecture and linguistic diversity in the Tibetan plateau
13:00 The rampant multilingualism of communities in the Tibetan plateau
14:50 Cantonese and Tibetan vs. the Mandarinization of China
18:30 Written Tibetan as a unifying force
19:00 The course of John’s research
22:15 John’s collaborator’s cultural documentation project
23:30 Music in this community
26:15 Wrapping your head around the process of mapping a language
28:30 How much more work is there to be done?
29:10 The sound patterns and phonology of the language
38:50 Summary of John’s time in Chengdu
41:00 A message to linguists
42:45 Endangered languages website and goodbye
Songs and media features in this podcast:
- Nostalgic Flavors (Intro), by Photay
- Aperture, by Photay + audio from a Minyag Tibetan Folktale
- Movin’ On, by Justin Townes Earle
Download & Stream Links
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Interested in or currently pursuing linguistic research in Western China? Study languages? Speak a language? Leave us your questions or thoughts in the comments below.