Taiwanese linguist races to save dying language
Sung’s most recent project was collating a Chinese-English dictionary for the Seediq language spoken by the tribe of Taiwanese mountain dwellers memorialized in ‘‘Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,’’ a 2011 film recounting their rebellion against Japanese occupiers in the 1930s. Last February she began her work with Kanakanavu, hoping she can preserve the language before the last speakers die out.
The odds against her are long. Even many 40- and 50-year olds are incapable of mouthing anything more than a few simple phrases in their native tongue.
Still, frolicking on the neatly cut lawn of Dakanua’s deserted bed and breakfast is a three-year old girl with a runny nose, an infectious smile and a lovely lilt to her voice.
She is the granddaughter of Mu'u Ka'angena, the man with the leathery skin, and just within earshot she begins conversing with him in very simple Kanakanavu.
‘‘Did you hear that?’’ Sung asks. ‘‘Isn’t it wonderful? She’s our hope for the future.’’