The Last Two Speakers of a Dying Language Refuse to Speak to Each Other
According to linguists, there are only two people left in the world who can fluently speak Ayapaneco, a language native to Mexico. They both live less than a mile apart in the village of Ayapa in the Mexican state of Tabasco. And they won’t speak to each other.
Manuel Segovia is 75 and Isidro Velazquez is 69, and apparently, they do not like each other very much.
“They don’t have a lot in common,” says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco. Segovia, he says, can be “a little prickly” and Velazquez, who is “more stoic,” rarely likes to leave his home.
With or without any friendship between the two men, language death seems like a very real possibility for Ayapaneco, which a linguistics professor interviewed by the Guardian describes as “a ‘linguistic island’ surrounded by much stronger indigenous languages.” But there’s still a tiny bit of hope:, the National Indigenous Language Institute is trying to get Segovia and Velazquez to teach Ayapaneco classes to other locals, though previous similar efforts have failed.