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Candle vigil held in Helsinki for extinct languages

21 Sep 2018, 03:24 ( 9 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo Source: Finnish National Museum.

Candles were lit outside Finnish National Museum in Helsinki on Thursday night to observe the national day for extinct languages.

   Niko Partanen, a senior specialist at the Finnish governmental institute for languages spoken in Finland, defined the risk of demise for small languages as "an issue of our era".

   Talking to Xinhua, he underlined the importance of teaching at schools: "The future gets risky when a language becomes voluntary in local schools."

   The national day for extinct languages 2018 marked the 29th anniversary of the death of the last speaker of Kamassian, a language distantly related to Finnish.

   Marking the day on its website, the institute noted that Kamassian has been preserved in the archives in Finland and researchers will continue analyzing the language for decades. "But many languages die in silence, and leave no traces."

   Finnish belongs to the Fenno-Ugric language group. The best known and most widely spoken languages in the family are Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian.

   Talking to Xinhua, researcher Susanna Virtanen at the University of Helsinki said only tens of people are able to speak some Fenno-Ugric samoyed languages now. "With them, the time is close to running out," she said.

   The candle vigil was arranged by Friends of related languages, a Finnish non-governmental organization.

   At the official level, a World Congress of Fenno-Ugric languages meets every four years. A plenary meeting took place in Lahti, Finland some years ago and an interim meeting will be arranged in Estonia this autumn, Partanen said.