The question of how many fluent Maidu speakers remain is a touchy one, not least because many Maidu resent the notion that a white ethnolinguist may be the keeper of the linguistic flame. A lot depends on how you define it-does someone speak Maidu if they know a lot of words or phrases? If they're capable of putting together new sentences? If they can think in Maidu? A fluent speaker, according to Shipley, can speak unself-consciously. By that definition, only a handful of fluent speakers remains. But even if you count people whose grasp of the language is limited to words and phrases, there are no more than a dozen speakers left, most of whom are in their 80s.
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