Apr 15 2011 David Taylor
THE last two speakers of a virtually extinct language are refusing to talk to each other after falling out over words in the dialect.
Ayapaneco is spoken only by Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, who live less than a mile apart in a village in Mexico.
The pair have lived in Ayapa all their lives but are now refusing to talk.
Manuel said: “When I was a boy, everybody spoke it. It’s disappeared little by little and now I suppose it might die with me.”
He still speaks to his wife and son in his native tongue, and although they can understand him, they can only say a few words back.
He conversed in Ayapaneco with his brother, until he died 10 years ago.
The only person left to talk to is reclusive Isidro but they pair have never got on. Villagers claim Manuel is “a little prickly”.
The language survived the Spanish conquest of Mexico and saw off wars, revolutions and famines.
But its popularity waned when Mexican authorities banned children from speaking anything other than Spanish for decades.
Manuel and Isidro remained in Ayapa as the local Ayapaneco speakers began leaving in the 1970s.
Today, the two men have their own versions of the language, which was named by outsiders centuries ago.
But they can’t agree on certain details of the lingo, which they call Nuumte Oote, meaning True Voice.
Professor Daniel Suslak, an Indiana University linguistic anthropologist, is compiling a dictionary to record the existence of the language. Both versions will be included.
He said: “The men don’t have a lot in common.”
Classes are also planned as a last-ditch effort to revive the language among locals but enthusiasm is low.
Even though Manuel bought pencils and notebooks himself, people have stopped attending.
There are 68 different indigenous languages in Mexico, further subdivided into 364 variations.
A handful of other Mexican languages are also in danger of extinction, though Ayapaneco is the most extreme case.
Professor Suslak added: “It’s a sad story but you have to be impressed by how long it has hung around.