Monday, November 29, 2010

Slip of the Tongue

Several months ago I was embroiled in an online conversation at a local forum I visit from time to time. The topic of discussion had twisted and turned until one of the participants…someone who normally makes it his job in life to rub everyone the wrong way…. made mention that there was no purpose for Latin.
He said, “Latin is a dead language.”

When I read what he had written I stared at my computer screen a little dumbfounded because in my eyes and in the eyes of several others Latin does live on since it is the root language for Italian, French, Spanish and English. It is also very much in use and spoken in the legal field, medical field, in academic circles, the Catholic church uses it for certain papal bulls and mass is often conducted in Latin, AND certain members of the clergy speak it very well, so it isn’t dead as a door nail, is it?

I had a little fun sparring with my online friend as I sought to educate him a little regarding Latin, but you know? There are just some people you can’t teach… matter what. I did have fun for several weeks posting comments to everything he wrote by writing my comments in Latin with a little English translation, just so he had an idea regarding what I was saying.

Languages can be extinct. Those are languages that are no longer spoken. There are approximately 82 known languages that can be termed recently extinct languages – like Arwi, Modern Gutnish, and Wappo. Yes, Wappo…..I kid you not.

Languages can also be dead. Those are languages that are no longer spoken by anyone as their main language. Therefore, using that distinction……I have to admit Latin is a dead language since there are no native speakers, but it does live on in so many arenas as I mentioned above. There are also several devotees to the Latin language. So much so they have even created a section of Wikipedia written in Latin with over 40,000 articles to date!

Recently, there was a new discovery regarding an extinct language……a very important discovery right here in what used to be termed the New World.

Archaeologists have been excavating the ruins of the Magdalena de Cao Viejo church at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, just north of Trujillo, in northern Peru for some time now. El Brujo is actually an ancient monument of the Moche culture and dates back to some point between 1 and 600 A.D. but the church there dates to colonial times. Researchers believe indigenous people were forced to inhabit the area by Spaniards, probably for purposes of conversion to Christianity. At some point the roof of the church collapsed more than likely in the mid-to late 17th century, and papers kept in the library or church office were trapped staying buried until the last couple of years.

In fact, a very important letter was discovered in 2008 but was not divulged to the public until it could be examined. Recently the journal, American Anthropologist, published a piece concerning the letter.

Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology told Reuters, “Our investigations determined that this piece of paper records a number system in a language that has been lost for years…..the language appears to have been influenced by Quechua, an ancient tongue still spoken by millions of people across the Andes….the language in the letter could be the written version of a language colonial-era Spaniards referred to in historical writings as Pescadora, for the fishermen on Peru’s northern coast who spoke it.

Until the letter was found no other evidence of the Pescadora language has been found.

The letter is also important because it gives evidence of numbers being translated which clearly shows the lost language’s numerical system was a ten-based, or decimal system like English. An article at National Geographic advises while the Inca used a ten-based system, many other cultures did not: the Maya, for example, used a base of 20.

Gee, I can’t wait until an online translator for Pescadora is available, so I can have a little fun with my online friends!
IBM has a Virtual Archaeology site for the El Brujo Archaeological Complex here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Isn’t this a great image for Veterans Day?

A very close childhood friend, Kim Rounseville Herrington, shared this image with me and many of her friends. My writer’s itch took hold when she advised the men in the picture were her father and son.

Grandfather and grandson never knew each other but years apart they both answered their country’s call and served proudly. The image seen here is one of Kim’s most favorite images of her father. It was the last picture taken of him blended with a picture of her son Timothy the day he came home from his first tour in Iraq. My friend received the picture as a gift from her daughter-in-law.

Kim tells me her father, Joseph W. Rounseville , was involved in the Tet Offensive in 1968 after enlisting in the Army at the age of 17. Unfortunately, he gave the ultimate sacrifice and was killed in action having attained the rank of First Sergeant in February, 1968. He was a "Master Blaster" in the Rangers, Airborne with the 82nd Division in Ft. Campbell, KY.

Kim advised me her father’s awards are too numerous for her to list, but in her possession she has a Bronze Star with four Oak Leaf Clusters (9th highest award given), Silver Star (third highest given), and one of his Purple Hearts and one of his Vietnam service medals.

In the last few years Kim has been able to make contact with her father’s relatives and has learned so much about him. She advises me he was a class act and many of the letters she has received from men that were under his command said he led by example, not by word. He was the one in FRONT of them to show the way, not behind them.

Kim son, Timothy Herrington is currently a Staff Sergeant in the Army with over five years of service.

Happy Veterans Day to all of those who have served……to all of those currently serving their county and our most reverent remembrance for our fallen heroes.

If you would like to read my other Veterans Day postings please follow the Veterans Day link found in the site index to your left.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Puerto Rico's Mark on the Truman Administration

Puerto Rico is NOT a place you normally think about when you want to discuss violent uprisings, massacres, and plots to assassinate the president of the United States, but the Puerto Rico of the late 1940s and early 1950s was a much different place than it is today.

My latest post over at American Presidents  gives you all the details. Click on through……