Who’s Bo? A language spoken on a small island off the coast of India, regarded as one of the very oldest languages in the world. The last native speaker died today (or was it yesterday?)
Boa Sr died at the age of 85, the last native speaker of her language. We know, now, that this language was doomed the moment the speaking population dipped below a certain critical mass. In fact, it was doomed when it was no longer the first language taught to children.
Is this sad? Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s sad that we have lost the last source we had on this ancient and fascinating language, and what we have recorded now is all we’ll have, and all we’ll ever know. It’s a bit of the beautiful diversity of language gone forever.
But it’s not sad, in that this process of language death is natural. It has happened repeatedly throughout history. The last speaker of whatever language was spoken in Europe before the Indo-European invasion eventually died, and no one spoke that language (or those languages) any more. Yet Indo-European, which replaced it, split into hundreds of languages: Latin, Greek, the Slavic Languages, the Germanic and Celtic tongues. Languages die, and languages are born. As a linguist I know this.
But I’m still just a touch melancholy that part of the world’s diversity just faded away. And the saddest thing, to me, perhaps, is that I only learned of the existence of Bo today. On the day of its death.