Monday, 25 August 2008

Language diversity in the Caucasus

On the back of the unfortunate conflict in Georgia, an interesting piece in the IHT on the degree of linguistic diversity in the Caucasus. Despite having studied Russian years ago, including slogging through and later enjoying Tolstoy's short stories set in the Caucasus, I'd never quite clicked that there were that many ethnicities, languages, cultures in the area. Nor had my interest in Byzantine history helped much despite the close links between Armenia and Georgia, to name but two and the Byzantine empire.

One thing that did resonate with me was the comment about the Ossetian lexicon being burned. nearly twenty years ago now, shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a small Yemeni man turned up at the Computer Centre at York where I was working, doing data recovery and document format conversion, with a bag of floppy disks. He had been working in Kuwait and the disks contained all that was left of his research notes - most had been stored securely on a server at Kuwait University, like they should where they were backed up properly, etc, except that the Iraqi's decided to use the server and its disk stack for target practice.

I did get most of his data back, and he thanked me with a present of wonderful fresh coffee beans from his father's farm - a wonderful thank you and something that makes it all worthwhile.

1 comment:

dgm said...

backgrounder and language map at the Language Log