1Ayapaneco: A language at risk of dying out because its last two speakers would not speak to each other
The Ayapaneco language was spoken in Mexico for centuries. It survived the Spanish conquest, wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it's at risk of extinction. There are just two people left who can speak it fluently... but they refuse to talk to each other!
Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa, Tabasco. It's not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other's company.
"It's disappearing little by little, and now I suppose it might die with me," said Segovia. Ayapaneco has always been a "linguistic island" surrounded by much stronger indigenous languages, and its two last castaways can't seem to work out their differences to keep it alive.
2!Xóõ: A clicking language with 122 consonants
The !Xóõ language is spoken by around 3,000 natives of the Namibia and Botswana regions in Africa. Known for its large number of phonemes, perhaps the largest in the world, it has anywhere from 58 to 122 consonants, 31 vowels, and four tones. These include 43 "click" consonants (sounds like "tchick!" or "clip-clop!") and several vowel phonations.
3 Archi: A language with 1.5 million verb endings
While "eat" in English can have a few endings like "eating" and "eaten," there are 1,502,839 possible forms that can be derived from a single verb root in the Archi language. Spoken by the Archis in the village of Archib, Russia, the language has a remarkable morphological system with huge paradigms and irregularities on all levels. It has 26 vowel phonemes, and depending on analysis, between 74 and 82 consonant phonemes. So, next time your children complain about their grammar classes, send them to Russia.
4Anal: An unfortunately named language spoken by 23,000 people
The Anal people are found in Manipur, India and in Myanmar. About 23,000 of them speak their own language, also called "Anal" or "Namfau," after the two principal villages it is spoken in.
The origin of the name Anal is not clear. One hypothesis is that the group name comes from the surname of R.D. Angnal. Another suggested explanation is that the name derives from the Meitei word anan, which means "clean," suggesting that the group had a reputation for cleanliness. However, the Encyclopedia of North-East India points out that the Myanma refer to them as Khon, which means "dirty people."
5Tuyuca: A language with 140 verb modifiers
Probably the most difficult language on Earth, Tuyuca is spoken by an indigenous ethnic group of some 500-1000 people who inhabit Colombia and the Brazilian Amazonas. While most languages have few and very simple noun modifiers, such as masculine or feminine, the Tuyuca language is estimated to have 50 to 140 of them, making it extremely hard to learn and speak it fluently. For example, the ending "-wi" means "I know because I saw it", but then, "-hiyi" means "I assume."
6Silbo Gomero: The whistling language
Spoken by the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, Spain, Silbo Gomero has an "alphabet" of just two vowels and four consonants and it's articulated entirely by whistling.
The language is a whistled form of a dialect of Spanish, replacing each vowel or consonant with a whistling sound. Whistles are distinguished according to pitch and continuity. As with other whistled forms of non-tonal languages, the Silbo works by retaining approximately the articulation of ordinary speech.
A complex language to learn, its whistling techniques require physical precision and a strength of the body parts used in mechanism of the language that can only be acquired with practice. However, the effort pays off: it enables messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometers!
7Lincos: The language created by scientists to communicate with ALIENS
In 1960, Dr. Hans Freudenthal published a book called "Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse," where he proposed a language designed to be understandable by any possible intelligent extraterrestrial life form, for use in interstellar radio transmissions.
Freudenthal considered such a language should be easily understood by beings not acquainted with any Earth syntax or language, so the book teaches natural numbers by a series of repeated pulses, separated by pauses. Then it attempts to convey the concepts and language necessary to describe behavior and conversation between individuals. It uses examples to introduce actors speaking to each other, asking questions, disapproving, quoting other people, knowing and wanting things, promising, and playing. It later describes the concepts and language relating to mass, space, and motion.
For decades, no actual transmissions were made using Lincos. It remained largely a theoretical exercise, until two Canadian astrophysicists created a noise-resistant coding system for messages aimed at communicating with extraterrestrial civilizations. In 1999, the astrophysicists encoded a message in Lincos and used a radio telescope to beam it towards close stars. The experiment was repeated, using other close stars as target, in 2003.
They got no answer back.
8 Na'vi: A real language created by a linguist just for the AVATAR movie
The Na'vi people were the humanoid indigenous inhabitants of the fictional moon Pandora in the 2009 film Avatar. Its director, James Cameron, took their world so seriously that he hired Dr. Paul Frommer, Professor Emeritus of Clinical Management Communications at USC, to create an actual language for them.
When the film was released in 2009, Na'vi had a growing vocabulary of about a thousand words, but understanding of its grammar was limited to the language's creator. However, this has changed subsequently as Frommer has expanded the lexicon to more than 2,000 words, and has published the grammar, thus making Na'vi a relatively complete and learnable language. You can actually learn it online at Dr. Frommer's website.
9Rachasap: A language used exclusively for addressing the king of Thailand
The King is, without doubt, the most loved and revered man in the whole of Thailand. When speaking to or about royalty, a special form of Thai is used, known as "Rachasap," meaning "the Royal Language," dating from about seven hundred years ago. Rachasap forms a fundamental part of the Thai culture and tradition; most Thais know about it, but very few can speak it correctly. Yet, it can be heard almost daily on TV, radio and whenever there's something to be said about the King or his family.
10Toki Pona: A minimal language with just 14 phonemes and 120 root words
First published online in 2001, it was designed by translator and linguist Sonja Lang of Toronto as a minimal language, focusing on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. The language has just 14 phonemes and 120 root words, chosen around the principles of living a simple life without the complications of modern civilization. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language, but is instead inspired by Taoist philosophy, and it uses letters of the Latin alphabet to represent the language.
At least 100 people speak Toki Pona fluently, according to Lang, and it's estimated that a few hundred have a basic knowledge of it.