The Nipmuc Language is not dead

As has been referenced on this blog previously, I am an avid listener and unabashed promoter of the NPR program All Things Considered. It has “opened my eyes” more than once, and now again. The very title of the program says it all. Communicators, and those who strive to be communicators,  need to be open to learn and explore because expanding  horizons and awareness broadens our understanding of the world at large and this provides the kind of perspective that facilitates the communicator’s role as a transmitter of knowledge, information, and ideas, and All Things Considered  exposes the listener to many “things” we would never “consider” at “all”. But I digress.

So, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a philosophical query, and it applies aptly to the question of the demise of a language, in this case a Native American language spoken by the Nipmuc people , the subject of the All Things Considered segment I found so engaging.

Today, fewer than 10 people speak it. David White, a member of the tribe, swore to a dying elder that he would teach Nipmuc to ensure it was perpetuated. He has been steadfast in his commitment. There are many lessons to be learned from “White’s last stand” which impact matters that matter from a communications standpoint, but for the purpose of this post, I simply want to emphasize the core concept exemplified by his efforts, which is that language, any language, is precious and needs to be treated with the utmost respect, and saved for posterity if at all possible. Afterall, a culture is kept alive through its use of language.

NPR has aired David White’s story in conjunction with the PBS television series We Shall Remain which premiers today. This five part series asserts that Native American history must be seen as an essential part of American history.

For the full transcript of the NPR segment and more information about the PBS series We Shall Remain go to:

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Communication technology, ancient style

So I’m driving in my car today and I turn on the radio to listen to one of my favorite radio offerings, NPR’s “All Things Considered”; I hear the last portion of a segment about the Grand Theater of Ephesus, also known as the Old Theatre of Ephesus, and for good reason, it was built some two thousand years ago. The segment featured the reporter at the theater itself, and the listener heard his breathy narration as he walked up the many rows of seats to the top of the 24,000 capacity amphitheater to demonstrate the remarkable acoustical properties of the edifice. Way down below you could clearly hear the banter of a group of children on the stage. I was impressed.

Yes, there are many performance venues which are known for their amazing acoustical characteristics. Places of which they say “you can hear a pin drop”. But for the most part, we think of these places as latter-day designs which came along as our knowledge base about such things grew. In fact there are a number of examples dating back to ancient times and the Grand Theater of Ephesus is one of them.

Now I’ve done a little research, and yes this is the same Ephesus associated with St. Paul  and the theater is where he is said to have preached – to the Ephesians of course. Besides theatrical performances, the theater was also used for meetings of the citizens, so the structure was communications central.

The Grand Theater of Ephesus is still in use today. At a point in time the likes of Sting and Elton John, according to some travelogues, graced its stage. Loudspeakers used for these types of performances did some damage so they are now apparently banned. Amplification is amply provided courtesy of the Greeks and Romans.

As communicators, we need to appreciate such ancient ingenuity. We need to recognize the long line of invention that has come before, study and learn, otherwise we just might re-invent the wheel. The Acoustical Society of America (established in 1929, the year of the Stock Market Crash no less) actually has members working in the relatively new field of  acoustical archaeology, so they get the idea.

George Santayana said (oft-misquoted): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

For a transcript of the NPR “All Things Considered” segment go to:

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