A real conversation killer: Last two speakers of dying language refuse to talk to each other - because they don't get on
By Richard Hartley-parkinson
Last updated at 3:02 PM on 15th April 2011
As its last two speakers, you might expect Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquezto to discuss how best to preserve their dying language. But the pair engage in no such discussions - or any other for that matter - as they refuse to speak to each other.
They live less than half a mile apart in a village in Mexico but despite being the only people fluent in Ayapaneco, they apparently do not get on. Those who know the two men are unsure as to whether there is some deep-rooted conflict between them.
Although the Ayapaneco language survived the Spanish conquest it is believed to have suffered as a result of compulsory Spanish education, migration of its speakers and urbanisation.
There are 6,000 languages in the world and of those around half are expected to disappear over the next century.
Daniel Suslak, an Indiana University linguistic anthropologist, is compiling a dictionary to record the existence of the language. He said he has discovered that the two men 'don't have much in common' and while Mr Segovia, 75, is 'a little prickly', Mr Velaquez, 69, doesn't like to leave his home and is 'more stoic'.
Speaking from his home village of Ayapa in southern Mexico, Mr Segovia said of the language: 'When I was a boy everybody spoke it. It's disappeared little by little and now I suppose it might die with me.'
He continues to speak to his wife and son in his native tongue who understand him but, other than a few words, they cannot speak back. He conversed in Ayapaneco with his brother, but he died 10 years ago, according to the Guardian newspaper.
It is not believed that Mr Velazquez converses his native tongue at all any more.
The language's biggest downfall came in the mid-20th century. For several decades indigenous children were explicitly forbidden from speaking anything other than Spanish.