MediaFile

On Facebook nobody knows you’re a dead language

October 2, 2009

Gaudeamus Igitur!

Friday was a day of great joy and merriment for seminarians, academics and other devotees of Latin following Facebook’s announcement that the world’s largest social networking website is now available in the language of Caesar.

Latin may be considered a so-called dead language, but that didn’t stop Facebook from adding it to the 70 language options offered on the website.

“Most of the time when we stumble upon a Latin phrase, it’s etched in stone: carved in the hallways of universities, chiseled on facades of government buildings or carefully imprinted in cathedral foyers and churchyards,” read a Facebook blog post announcing the news.

“Yet beginning today, Latin – the staid and reliable language – springs to life on Facebook,” the post continues.

Even English monoglots may find that Latin Facebook has a familiar ring. The “chat” feature is labeled Colloqium. Requests are Petitiones.

Like all languages on Facebook, the Latin translation was created by Facebook’s users. According to Facebook there are an additional 55 languages currently being translated or in beta testing including Sanskrit, another language of the past.

The news may give hope to lovers of other dead and extinct tongues including Sumerian, Punic and Manx (a language of the Isle of Man whose last known native speaker died in 1974, according to Wikipedia).

Of course, there’s plenty of living languages for Facebook to focus on too.

The latest edition of Ethnologue lists 6,909 living languages, though 94 percent of them are spoken by only 6 percent of the world’s people.

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Dear Reporter,
Nice article from you.
Who says that,Latin language is not followed by many people.
Even though,I don!t knows this language,i used to listen Latin Music from many websites.
This is a good beginning from leading social website-Face Book.
Many Latins will get more benefits from Face Book.
Always,we should encourage many languages,many different culture and it leads to new ideas,friendship and be a leading knowledge centers to net users.

 

That’s really great. I am specially thrilled to hear about Sanskrit – the mother of languauges in Indian subcontinent, and south-east asian countries.

 

Dear krishmamurthi ramachandran,
“Latin” has two meanings. The Latin language was spoken by the ancient Romans and is written but not spoken today. Written Latin is the subject of the article. Latin music is something entirely different and is enjoyed today. Its roots are from South America and the Caribbean. The ancient Romans who spoke Latin never heard Latin music which would not be created for another 1900 years.

Posted by casper | Report as abusive
 

Since we are talking about language, let’s use English correctly. There ARE plenty of living languages for Facebook to focus on too.

Posted by Rebecca | Report as abusive
 

True! Latin language and Latin music are two different things. Spanish speakers are often called Latins and the region where languages coming from Latin is spoken is called Latin America. That also includes Portuguese, spoken in Brazil and French, spoken in French Guiana. Therefore, a Latin person may come from a wide variety of backgrounds as well as Latin music.

Posted by Teresa | Report as abusive
 

I love how the facebook brand includes the concept of user-generated ideas, applications, etc. But an even more fundamental feature of the facebook brand is that of keeping control in the hands of the users.
Reports that users’ pictures have been used on a jailbait site have been met with apathy by Facebook…, just as when facebook received complaints from users after its last major over-haul, it disregarded its target market’s concerns.

This attitude does Not represent a good marketing strategy.

Posted by rita | Report as abusive
 

Facebook is doing a great job trying to be inclusive of all the languages. But who said Sanskrit is language of past??!! There are hundreds of schools & major universities in India & around the world teaching the language. The language have always had sizable following. There are tens of thousands of people who’s mother tongue “even today” is Sanskrit.
A proud speaker of a language, I am offended by the reference of Sanskrit as “language of past.”

-Madhavi

 

What’s wrong with saying that Sanskrit is a language of the past? Perhaps “largely” of the past would be better. In a nation of more than 1 billion people, 49,000-or-so Sanskrit speakers might make it seem, at least, like an endangered language in the sense of being a living language.

It is true that many schools teach the language, but then again, many schools teach Latin — though we still call it a “dead” language. And it seems clear that there are efforts to revive Sanskrit as a more living language than it is today, but when you get down to it, it seems to be not at all insulting to refer to Sanskrit in the way that Reuters did it when you think that the days of when it was a “lingua franca” of many parts of India are undoubtedly in the past.

I’m not speaking for Reuters, I’m just speaking as someone who works there and enjoys studying languages.

 

Shams, Sanskrit is the “mother” of the so-called “Indo-Aryan” languages, a branch of Indo-European (to which also English and most other European languages belong). Sanskrit is not the “mother” of Southeast Asian languages, which belong to other families. It is only that because of religious and cultural Indian influences Sanskrit (and descended Pali) are studied in Southeast Asia, as they are in Southern India where the unrelated Dravidian languages are used.

 

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