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Gone To Croatan: Runaway Slaves, Lost Tribes, Tri-Racial Isolates & Hi, Iconomy!
November 15, 2002 3:27 PM   Subscribe

In the late 18th or early 19th century a group of runaway slaves and serfs fled from Kentucky into the Ohio Territory, where they inter-married with Natives and formed a tribe - red, white & black - called the Ben Ishmael tribe. The Ishmaels (who seem to have been Islamically inclined) followed an annual nomadic route through the territory, hunting & fishing, and finding work as tinkers and minstrels. They were polygamists, and drank no alcohol. Every winter they returned to their original settlement, where a village had grown.

But eventually the US Govt. opened the Territory to settlement, and the ~official~ pioneers arrived. Around the Ishmael village a town began to spring up, called Cincinnati. Soon it was a big city. But Ishmael village was still there, engulfed & surrounded by "civilization." Now it was a ~slum~.


Maroons, Ramapaughs, Jackson Whites, the Moors of Delaware, Melungeons, the Ben Ishmaels--hat tip to Footnotes of History on that last--Red Bones, Brass Ankles, Turks, Lumbees, Croatans and other lost tribes and rebel slave communities.

The questions raised are what is race, tribe and family ...among others.

Included by extension are Hakim Bey, The Moorish Orthodox Church, various tribes of Black Indians, Jukes, Kallikaks, Margaret Sanger, The Bell Curve and Heather Locklear. (Step within the tent for the latter's interpetive dance)
posted by y2karl (38 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I became interested in the Ben Ishmaels after reading the anarchist Bey's essay in the Temporary Autonomous Zone. A nomadic tribe with houses on wheels--in the Ohio Valley: it sounded like a concept Jack Vance would endorse, if not invent. It was a pretty story, for all the half-baked psychoceramic crackle in the details--Mu, Atlantis and Olmec Moors--and one not entirely a fantasy. Bey's postmodern anarchists fugues aside, as well as the crackpottery of others, there were Ben Ishmaels. Whether or not, some survived to join Prince Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple, is another story. One who did join later went on to become the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

That there were Tri-Racial Isolate groups, neither exclusively black nor red nor white, is beyond a doubt as well. That between these, the racial codes of the post-Reconstruction era and the associated one drop theory of racial purity, anti-immigrant phobia led to a moral panic over miscenegation, that gave us the Jukes and Kallikaks, Eugenics Movement, Margaret Sanger and by extension, the Holocaust, the Bell Curve and the origins of Planned Parenthood is a matter of fact as well. And for all the feel good, happy face ''color blind'' racial propaganda of manufactured consent, these things linger still.
still... What is the consensus on what is race and who are a tribe and who decides this? It's a topic still under construction. One thing is for certain--Heather Locklear rather definitely re-defines the whole concept of High Yellow.
posted by y2karl at 3:28 PM on November 15, 2002


My apologies for the extra spaces--not all were by intent.
posted by y2karl at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2002


Lumbee and Croatans are the same people group.
posted by konolia at 3:40 PM on November 15, 2002


Oh, and I did not mean to imply Elijah Muhammad was a Ben Ishmaeli. He was simply a convert and, in a sense, the heir to the Moorish Science Temple.
posted by y2karl at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2002


Absolutely fascinating! Thanks for putting this together y2karl!
posted by rks404 at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2002


thanks, wow, very interesting--can't wait to look into this over the weekend. madison smartt bell just published a novel with a melungeon as the lead character (he's the leader of a travelling bar band in the south), which is in my getting-ready-to-read stack of books.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 3:55 PM on November 15, 2002


Deep with information, y2karl. Your links allowed me to preview them when I placed my mouse over them. Not sure of the hows on this. But if it did take extra work on your part Karl I would like it noted, nice job on your part still.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2002


Additonally, here are these links on Islam in early America.
posted by y2karl at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2002


And this - Omar Ibn Said.
posted by y2karl at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2002


wow. i know they're bitching over in metatalk that MeFi's dead, but this is a piece of work. I don't know where to begin. nice work, karl.
posted by elsar at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2002


I love this shit. When I got the drift of your post, I thought "This guy's got to read Peter Lamborn Wilson," but of course you were way ahead of me. Anyway, for the rest of you, if this whets your appetite you should check out Sacred Drift and his other books; Wilson delves into all the forgotten, ignored, and repressed corners of American (and other) life.
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on November 15, 2002


y2karl:

Your posts always have the highest signal-to-noise ratios of any MeFi postings, and this one is no exception. From John Fahey to Jackson Whites, your offerings have illuminated facets of historic American culture that are typically omitted from the Government Approved™curriculum.

Props especiales to you for the link to Footnotes to History.
posted by rdone at 5:23 PM on November 15, 2002


I expect no less than absolute brilliance and complete coverage of an hitherto undiscovered topic when y2karl suddenly goes silent for three or four days. Thank you!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2002


When I lived in NJ, I worked with a NJ Dutch guy who hadn't seen much of the world. One time, he made reference to 'Jackson Whites' and I understood from his description that they were some sort of secluded group that included some albinos. But, I've never followed up on it until now. karl, your link to info about them was very interesting.
posted by tippiedog at 6:57 PM on November 15, 2002


Interesting. Thorough. Original. Fantastic post.
ps: I read that Peter Lamborn Wilson and Hakim Bey are-- well never mind.
posted by pupil1 at 8:01 PM on November 15, 2002


Thanks, y2karl, if only for the link to Hakim Bey, who I've ignored and left unread for far too long.

Like a great and sonorous bell, ringing in my mind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:02 PM on November 15, 2002


Many apologies in advance for addressing the presentation instead of the content, but c'mon - how many of the above commenters have read all the links, either? I hope to, within the next several days, but what jumps out at me on first skim-through are the title drops.

As much as I personally love the title attribute (it's what makes the pop-up text appear when you mouse over a link), it really only works (at least in my opinion) for short bursts of information - then, the extra information is more like a sidebar, or a footnote, instead of an extra chapter. In culinary terms, the title is a lagniappe but not another course. However, when an entire paragraph comes up as a title, the reader has to keep wiggling their cursor over the link, else the title disappears before it can be completely read (at least in IE - I know not of other browsers). As nice as it may be to have an entire extra paragraph of explanation for a link within a thread, might that not also indicate that the link deserved a thread of it's own?

Karl, and readers, please don't let this observation derail what should be an excellent thread on an excellent post - but please do take it as the constructive criticism it was intended to be.

Now, I'm off to read!
posted by yhbc at 9:35 PM on November 15, 2002


A long time ago I did a site about rebel slaves during the Revolutionary War - it had lots of documents and one account of the meeting of a free black man and a maroon community.

Take a look at it.
posted by datadawg at 9:44 PM on November 15, 2002


No pile-on, but I also felt the need to comment on the title drops. Normally I'm on Netscape/Mozilla, which only shows the first n characters anyway -- it's just a tiny bit too short for some of the better MeFi internyms. I find that tonight, on IE6, it's little better -- because the darn pop-ups time out. It takes 2, 3, 4 mouse-overs to read a whole one. So, maybe not so much next time.

Oh, and let's not forget the "Welsh" Mandans.

konolia: Lumbees believe they may be connected to the Roanoke colonists, but there's no definitive proof as yet; and the Croatans were an Indian tribe already present, and perhaps already racially mixed, at the time of their arrival. Lots of good information in Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony, along with a big dollop of interpretation.

Also, although several Lumbee web pages list Heather Locklear as a likely descendant of the tribe, she has not, apparently, made such an identification herself.

I think it would be a very interesting project to do DNA testing of these groups versus some of their proposed origins. For the Roanoke colonists, it is probably even possible to do genetic maps of known descendants of relatives. Is there any correspondence with modern Lumbees? Do Mandans have Celtic/Welsh origins? Do Melungeons have Portuguese or Moorish (Maghrib Arab) blood? Or is this the kind of project that falls between the interdisciplinary cracks?

In any case, it's likely that some of these peoples had multiple origins, as the "triracial" theories propose. Those on the fringes of colonial society would make their way to the frontier, and at those frayed edges interesting combinations would arise.
posted by dhartung at 10:17 PM on November 15, 2002


y2karl, I bow before you. You are the master.
superb post. Thank you!
posted by anastasiav at 10:42 PM on November 15, 2002


I think by the time I finish reading about all those tribes, I'll have created one of my own.

It's interesting that the 'Lost Colony' of Roanoke Island probably just joined the Croatans or the Lumbee, and are related to Heather Locklear.

Nice post.
posted by hama7 at 10:53 PM on November 15, 2002


Ah, dhartung, from Melungeon.com here's a statement from one Brant Kennedy, a mover in those circles, regarding a mitochondrial DNA test . Thanks for the Welsh Mandan link.

I find the references to indentured Turkish servants at Jamestown and East Indians or Romany (Gypsies) workig and living in the Colonies from the 1600s, (the gypsies sometimes as outright slaves), intriguing.

Hakim Bey refers to the apocryphal Ben Ismaelites migrating on a loop between cities named Medina and Mecca in wheeled houses in one text. This reminded me of Jack Vance's The Gray Prince--sometimes The Domains of Koryphon--wherein he describes a similar folk who sail their wagons across endless steppes.

Which raises the whole other aspect of outsider groups--Hasidic Jews, Mormons, Amish, Rajneeshees and so forth, and especially the nomads like Gypsies or The Travelers, who by custom and culture turn the world upside down and make the nations through which they travel the outsiders, often at great cost to themselves. But I was too lazy to get into all that at this point.

As for the comments on the tags, well, I aim to please myself first. They are duly noted, just the same.

Datadawg--I ran across mention of the Maroons of Nova Scotia but time and space lead me not to mention that. Another interesting group to note in passing are the Metis of Canada--the root is the same as for Mestizo ultimately, I believe, and the word means much the same.--They seem to be an officially recognized aboriginal group and have the websites to prove it. Another thing I noted in my readings was the very recent origins and ad hoc nature of several Indian tribes under the pressure and strife of the Westward expansion. The Plains Indians like Sioux and Cheyenne, for instance, lived entirely different lives before the reintroduction of the horse.

And I didn't get into the whole Portuguese angle either...
posted by y2karl at 12:15 AM on November 16, 2002


y2karl,

First of all, your investment into your thread obviously is refreshing and makes everyone's experience just that much better. As someone who considers themselves a human diversity enthusiast I will enjoy reading most if not all of your links (I've read several).

still... What is the consensus on what is race and who are a tribe and who decides this? It's a topic still under construction.

Given your 'anti-immigrant phobia=holocaust' introduction to this, I have an idea what I'm jumping into here, but I'll dive in headfirst anyway.

Race, like gender, is a fairly simple idea with a practical amount of significance.

The Boaz school of race had a far-reach after the atrocities of the Second World War, and a lot fear concerning the possible consequences of race-based thinking has continued to influence the opinions of the elite. Today this continues. Many journalists, scientists, and professors continue with the fashionable mantra that race is a 'scientifically meaningless concept'. The American Anthropological Association tells us:

'In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.'

huh?

Excuse me, but does anyone here believe that anyone of any sufficient degree of mental capability has ever actually thought this way? Can anyone find me one quote from the past from someone who didn't understand that races can and frequently interbreed? This is a strawman allowed to persist in a culture of fear.

Race doesn't need to be 'dangerous' or confusing. A race is an extremely extended family that is inbred to a certain degree.

When Winston Churchill spoke of 'the British race', he was referring to something with biological significance. The British race meeting the above definition, and itself being a sub-set of The Germanic race, itself being a subset of the Caucasian race, etc.

Your race is your larger family, and like (or rather, as) your extended family, it gets fuzzier and fuzzier as it branches out from you. Race shouldn't be considered essentially, but statistically, as a fuzzy set. Another example of a fuzzy set is a rainbow; the colors on a rainbow aren't discrete but are arranged on a smooth continuum, and still we understand categories such as red, blue, and yellow to be meaningful concepts.

Stanford population geneticist Cavalli-Sforza has been a leading figure in studying the relatedness of human beings. If you'll please glance at this link you'll note that the cover to to his book The History and Geography of Human Genes is color-coded map of the world, here is what Cavalli-Sforza had to say about it:

'The color map of the world shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids … (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red).'

Much like the rainbow, the map is a flowing continuum, but the broad areas of color confirm the same long considered and obvious racial patterns that we are all aware of.

still... What is the consensus on what is race and who are a tribe and who decides this? It's a topic still under construction.

I have to say Karl, reading about these neat mixed populations does enrich me, but if you posted all of them as some sort of refutation of the concept of race then I didn't find it too convincing. The topic of race has been torturously deconstructed many times, but a look at the color-coded map will show you that the topic is, in fact, not 'under construction', but closed at this point (though it may change gradually over a loonnngg period of time). I hope I have not terribly misunderstood this thread or its larger purpose.
posted by dgaicun at 1:17 AM on November 16, 2002


Please allow me, as an extra sidenote, to refer anyone interested to Gilberto Freyre, from Pernambuco, Brazil, whose 1933's "Casa-Grande e Senzala" (literally something like "Master's Mansion and Slavehouse", translated to English as "the Masters and the Slaves") puts forth the theory that Brazilian "race" stems from this: the Portuguese (who often had moorish and jewish origins themselves) favoured a kind of colonial expansion which fully embraced miscegenation, thereby creating an original population whose "mestiços", "mulatos" and assorted "morenos" were slowly assimilated into ( or else co-opted by) the white mainstream.
In another book called "Brazil: an Interpretation", he draws parallels between Brazil, the USA and their sui-generis racial diversity.
Now, imho, what y2karl's post really is about is this: creative nomadism, cross pollination, culture. Please read Bey's wonderful "Overcoming Tourism" (link somewhere above):
" Tourism's real roots do not lie in pilgrimage (or even in «fair» trade), but in war. Rape and pillage were the original forms of tourism, or rather, the first tourists followed directly in the wake of war, like human vultures picking over battlefield carnage for imaginary booty - for images.
Tourism arose as a symptom of an Imperial­ism that was total - economic, political, and spiritual."

Almost sounds like something a Don Delillo character would say.
posted by pupil1 at 1:33 AM on November 16, 2002


I have to say Karl, reading about these neat mixed populations does enrich me, but if you posted all of them as some sort of refutation of the concept of race then I didn't find it too convincing.

Huh?

Methinks that here you tilt at windmill of your own device.
And a torturously deconstructed one at that.
posted by y2karl at 1:36 AM on November 16, 2002


I should watch my unthought out ad libs, however--race as a biological concept wasn't a focus here, except perhaps as refracted through the moral panic of the Eugenics movement, and that was following a theme of Bey's that I thought had merit.

creative nomadism, cross pollination, culture--oh, you're too kind, pupil1.

I would add the theme of the interstitial perpetual outsider, one foot in a given camp at best, a situation which children of mixed race experience to this day. One of my best friends is a beautiful young woman, a pale raven haired goth with Azeri cheekbones ...and a posse of black inlaws. Life is complicated. I have yet to draw a firm conclusion.
posted by y2karl at 2:00 AM on November 16, 2002


But I was too lazy to get into all that at this point.
And I didn't get into the whole Portuguese angle either...

I don't know anything about the motivations for this post, nor do I think they are very important. But if I had to criticize this post, I would say, (and I think y2karl is hinting at it by his comments above) that the topic of race, family and tribe deserves much more space than this.

Each of the links on the FPP could have been examined and appreciated individually as separate posts, given the sheer amount of information in them. The original post took on an enormously varied topic and then dwindled on into the comments area for several subsequent posts.

Perhaps the follow-ups could have been multiple installments, or variations on a theme, and still could be, given the attraction and mystery of the topic.

I spent several hours reading, and I am still interested, but the volume of information is similar to a virtual edition of the encyclopedia Brittanica.
posted by hama7 at 3:35 AM on November 16, 2002


dgaicun: I can't let your comment pass without refutation. Yes, genetic differences are real, and useful for tracing the history of the species, but without practical significance. I will quote extensively from a book you should read if you're interested in the subject, Kenan Malik's The Meaning of Race:
In popular language, 'race' is usually synonymous with 'colour'. We casually speak of Africans (or Afro-Caribbeans) as one race, Asians as another, Europeans or 'whites' as a third. Virtually everyone can distinguish between the physical characteristics of the major racial groups. Many even believe they can tell the difference between a Jew and a Gentile, or an Englishman and an Italian by physical appearance alone. This universal ability to distinguish between different human groups has given credence to the idea that races possess an objective reality.

This popular idea of race is buttressed by academic and political arguments. Much academic study continues to use the concept of race as both an analytical tool and an explanatory determinant... Despite this widespread usage of the term race, however, there has been precious little attempt to define the concept. In the absence of a clear definition, the concept of race in academic discourse has acquired by default the everyday meaning of the word....

In legal and political, as in academic, discourse the concept of race is borrowed from everyday perceptions of differences and subsequently acts to legitimate as true the very definition on which it was based in the first place. This collapsing of perception and understanding can be seriously misleading. The sun appears to set and the moon appears to rise at night; we know that in reality neither actually happens. In the same way, the appearance that all human beings can be categorised by 'race' might seem seductively tangible but has no objective basis. Humanity is not like a Dulux colour chart with everyone falling into discrete categories, each with a unique name and character. Human beings are composed of a constellation of characteristics, physical and mental, which shade into each other....

In recent years scientific research has demonstrated why anthropologists... found it so difficult to define a 'race'. Geneticists have shown that 85 per cent of all genetic variation is between individuals within the same local population. A further 8 per cent is between local populations or groups within what is considered to be a major race. Just 7 per cent of genetic variation is between major races.

What this means is that genetic variation between one Englishman and another, or between one Jamaican and another, can be nearly as great as the differences between a 'typical' Englishman and a 'typical' Jamaican. Every population is highly variable and whatever external physical signs there may be—such as skin colour—genetic features do not absolutely define one population and distinguish it from another. As geneticist Steve Jones has observed, 'modern genetics does in fact show that there are no separate groups within humanity (although there are noticeable differences among the peoples of the world)'. Race exists only as a statistical correlation, not as an objective fact. The distinction we make between different races is not naturally given but is socially defined.
The emphasis is mine. Malik has very interesting things to say about the history of the concept; for one thing, it used to be applied at least as much to social divisions as to those we are used to. Philippe Buchez said in 1857: "Our task now, I maintain, is to find out how it can happen that within a population such as ours, races may form—not merely one but several races—so miserable, inferior and bastardised that they may be classed with the most inferior savage races, for their inferiority is sometimes beyond cure." Dangerous stuff to play with, even (or especially) if you think you're being scientific.
posted by languagehat at 7:55 AM on November 16, 2002


In order to know things well, we must know them in detail, and detail, being infinite, makes all our knowledge superficial and incomplete.

François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld

I suppose I erred on the side of excess but it all seemed so interesting all at once.
posted by y2karl at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2002


Y2karl:Huh?

Methinks that here you tilt at windmill of your own device.
And a torturously deconstructed one at that.


Um. Ok, you start out listing interbred racial populations with this:

The questions raised are what is race, tribe and family ...among others.

Which leads into this cautionary tale:

anti-immigrant phobia led to a moral panic over miscenegation, that gave us the Jukes and Kallikaks, Eugenics Movement, Margaret Sanger and by extension, the Holocaust, the Bell Curve and the origins of Planned Parenthood is a matter of fact as well

and this summation:

still... What is the consensus on what is race and who are a tribe and who decides this? It's a topic still under construction.

Seemingly this was a challenge to the idea. Clearly the post was about race, and clearly it was dissatisfied. I'm not too sure how I 'torturously deconstructed' anything you wrote, I just wanted to respond, in turn, and say that I was someone who was satisfied.

Languagehat:

I can't let your comment pass without refutation.

I'm not sure what was refuted, you never contradicted anything I wrote, and I am almost totally in agreement with all of what you wrote. Except this:

Yes, genetic differences are real, and useful for tracing the history of the species, but without practical significance.

Under the words 'practical' and 'significance', I had two links that demonstrated how race does have some practical significance, at least enough so that it shouldn't be abandoned, on moral grounds, as a statistical idea. Most people differentiate between a Jack Russell Terrier and a German Shepherd or a mink and a ferret without demanding that the categories be infinitely useful to us. Race isn't a brand new all-purpose product for your kitchen, it's an observation. That alone should justify it.
posted by dgaicun at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2002


dgaicun: Ah, then I was misunderstanding you. I took your comment to be essentially "Oh, you all think it's so PC to ignore race, but come on, racial differences are obvious!" And you're right, genetic differences that correlate with observable "racial" differences can be useful to doctors, and it would be foolish for a doctor to look at a patient who was clearly African-American and not adjust diagnostic ideas accordingly. If that were the only use to which such observable differences were put, the whole discussion wouldn't be necessary. But in the world we live in, there are far more prevalent and less benign uses, which is why it seems... naive to say "it's an observation. That alone should justify it." Cost-benefit analysis can apply here; I'm not African-American, but I can well imagine that if I were, I might choose (if it were possible) to take the risk of being misdiagnosed if I could live in a world that would treat me no differently based on my skin. Sure, people can go through some amusing contortions in an effort to avoid discussing race, and it's easy to feel like a hard-headed realist by comparison -- but there are good reasons to avoid feeling too comfortable with the concept, and letting it in the front door can (and often has) led to ways of thinking like that exemplified in the last quote in my previous comment. And a statement like "Most people differentiate between a Jack Russell Terrier and a German Shepherd or a mink and a ferret," a perfectly natural analogy, is a step on the path to treating different "races" as something like animal species, another idea with a disastrous history. Race is a dangerous idea. (I apologize for the length at which I've gone on about this stuff, which is tangential to the thread, but it seems important to me, and after all it's not irrelevant either.)
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2002


Fascinating stuff y2karl, and most of it is new to me. As far as I am concerned, one of the best things about mefi is being introduced to new areas for exploration & you are so great at providing stimulating new "stuff" - thanks!

A fascinating maroon culture that I had heard a bit about and was prompted by your links to explore further is that of the Black Seminoles, originally of Florida, later migrating to Mexico and Texas where communities of descendents can still be found.

Black Seminole scouts of the 9th cavalry are perhaps more commonly known to us today by the name of Buffalo Soldiers.

Of course, the irony of a group of black/native soldiers playing a significant role in the suppression of the western native cultures - well, that's something for another discussion.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:31 PM on November 16, 2002


Madam: There's a brief but intriguing subplot about the Black Seminoles in this movie.
posted by languagehat at 4:26 PM on November 16, 2002


A random thought: According to the appropriate link above, the phrase Jackson Whites was derived from Jacks and Whites with Jacks being a name for runaway slaves. I now wonder if this has any relation to the verse

Well if I could holler just like a mountain Jack
Then I would go 'way up on a mountaintop
And call my baby back


that shows up in various blues lyrics...
posted by y2karl at 8:00 PM on November 16, 2002


You use a lot of black-white-native-Indian cross-pollinates from the American past, here is one interesting hybrid from the other side of the globe: the Macanese form an interesting Asian culture from the Portuguese diaspora.

And speaking of Eurasian hybrids here is a Time article on various issues concerning Eurasians who live in Asia. The article is not very serious, and only briefly glosses over how multiracial people often live difficult lives of exclusion in notoriously conformist and xenophobic Asian countries. One interesting element is its discussion of how mixed race people have broader international marketing potential.
I have wondered whether racially ambiguous stars like the Rock and Vin Diesal will become more commonplace in the international movie market of the 21st century, and racially specific stars like Schwartzenegger and Jackie Chan will become less popular.
posted by dgaicun at 12:50 AM on November 17, 2002


dgaicun: That would be helpful all around. Maybe Tiger Woods is the wave of the future.
posted by languagehat at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2002


The thought that comes to me, languagehat, is that this has been going on for all of human natural history. Not only genes but culture and language are mixed and mutated. For all this talk of the impending death of the bulk of the world's living languages, it makes one wonder how huge the sum total of what we've lost in terms of language and literature, oral or written, is already. Etruscan comes to mind, for one, and what the tongue the Pelasgians spoke, for another.
posted by y2karl at 8:45 AM on November 17, 2002


Yeah, I try not to think of that stuff. Depresses the hell out of me. (Of course, there are those who say "There's too much piled up already -- bring on the mass conflagration and let's start fresh!" But I don't let those people into my library.)
posted by languagehat at 9:39 AM on November 17, 2002


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