Figures of Speech

Premiered May 4, 2017

Human voices from remote corners of the globe convene on the dance stage as Alonzo King LINES Ballet explores the power of lost languages. Over half the world’s nearly 7,000 languages are at risk of vanishing by the end of the century. Poet and activist Bob Holman is a leading advocate of linguistic preservation and revitalization in indigenous communities. His recorded collection of native peoples’ poetry and song informs the soundscape of this evening-length ballet choreographed by Alonzo King.

Additional resources:

Blog Article: "Exploring in Ecstasy"

Podcast: Listen and learn more about the inspiration behind the piece

This interview was conducted by Tania Ketenjian, co-founder of SOUND MADE PUBLIC. They create audio experiences for radio, cultural organizations and brands and their work is based on the intersection of three fundamental principles: Art, humanity and communication.

Featured Languages:

Population: 10. Ethnic population: 15,000.
Location: Hokkaido prefecture: Kuril and Tsishima islands
Language Status: Nearly extinct

Euskera (also known as Basque)
Population: 468,000. Ethnic population: 2,000,000 residents of 3 provinces of Basque territories; 25% born outside territory, 40% in territory born to Basque parents.
Location: País Vasco autonomous community: Alava, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa provinces; Navarra autonomous region
Language Status: Provincial

Population: 2,400. Spoken by 1,700 in Montana, 400 in Oklahoma. Ethnic population: 4,000 in Montana.
Location: Montana: northern Cheyenne Reservation; associated with Arapaho language users in western Oklahoma
Language Status: Threatened

Population: 100, decreasing. Ethnic population: 8,500.
Location: Oklahoma: west
Language Status: Moribund

Population: 140 (2006 census)
Location: Northern Territory: Croker Island
Language Status: Threatened

Population: 1,270. Ethnic population: 6,000.
Location: Oklahoma: west central
Language Status: Moribund

Population: 100,000. Total users in all countries: 112,000.
Location: Jerusalem district and scattered
Language Status: Educational

Mountain Maidu (also known as northeast maidu)
Population: 1. Only a few semispeakers. Ethnic population: 110.
Location: California: Plumas and Lassen counties, northern Sierras
Language Status: Nearly extinct

Population: no known L1 speakers
Location: California: central foothills of the Sierras
Language Status: Dormant

Population: no known L1 speakers, but emerging L2 speakers. Last fluent speakers in the 18th or early 19th centuries.
Location: California: Monterrey and San Benito counties
Language Status: Reawakening

Sami (also known as Saami)
Population: 1,830 all Saami in Finland. Ethnic population: 700.
Location: Lapland region: between Lake Inari and Norway border, mostly Utsjoki border town area; above 68.00 N latitude.
Language Status: Provincial. Statutory provincial language in Sodankyla in Lapland, 3 municipalities elsewhere.

Selk’nam (also known as Ona)
Population: No known L1 speakers. The ethnic group disintegrated by early 20th century; last speakers died in the 1970s.
Location: Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur province: Patagonia
Language Status: Extinct

L1: first/native language
L2: a language that is not the native language of the speaker, but that is used in the locale of that person

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Figures of Speech
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