Pressed with copper, inked on vellum, Ortelius’s 1570 Theatrum orbis terrarum (the Theatre of the World) was an atlas of the visible, the earth as stage, the seas as audience, 160 maps graphing possibility, illuminating the desire for the unexplored.
Each cartograph was legend to the coveted marvels of the known universe: spice, salt, fur, gold, moon, salt, stars, love, the whim of elements engraved in its corners—sun, fire, the rage of Poseidon, cold wind strapped to a mortal at sea. The boundaries, invisible to birds and despots, are marked by turrets, blurred by the rivers the dead cross alone at night. Here are the Nubian elephants, here are the hot tents of the Tartars, who used the blood of horses to slake their thirst, here the locusts of Ethiopia, who devour the corn and leave the meadows and pastures bare of grass so that the people do oftentimes leave their native soil where they were bred and born and are forced, for want of victuals, to go seek some other place to dwell on. Here is the Congo, where Ortelius says before the entrance of the Portugals into this country, the people had no proper names, but were called by common names, such as stones, trees, herbs, birds, and other creatures. Here are the continents, once married, now divorced by the currents of the sea. Here is the terra incognita of kindness and empathy, here are urns you will return to after your long wanderings for power or love.
Recent broadcast from the terrarium of sadness and destruction: it will take between ten and fourteen days from now for another of the world’s 6,900 languages to die out. So let’s say that today the last speaker of something somewhere is dying.
Exhibit A: Alban Michael. Out of the 7,700,000,000 people on earth, he was only one left who could speak Nuchatlaht. He lived near Nootka Island, he spoke to his parents in dreams, as there was no one left to speak to him. And then one year ago, he was gone, himself a dream, his language buried with him.
Exhibit B: After millennia of surviving in the Caucasus Mountains on one vowel and 84 consonants, Ubykh died in the grave of Tevfik Esenç. He said, I see you well instead of I love you and You cut my heart instead of You please me, the sounds of his words described in a fable as the noise of a bag of pebbles poured on a sultan’s marble floor. ... [mehr] https://lithub.com/every-day-another-language-dies/