Losing their language

13 July 2017 | by D.J. Taylor



Penzance-raised comparative literature graduate Rory McGrath began this whistle-stop tour of Europe’s minority languages at the Suns festival in Northern Italy – a kind of multi- lingual alternative to Eurovision in which English is banned from everything except the stage announcements. Here could be found competitors who sang in Breton, Manx and Faroese, not to mention McGrath himself, who had dusted down a plaintive little elegy to the joys of his native land written all of 30 years ago and had it translated into Cornish.

The United Nations estimates that 90 per cent of the continent’s 200 lesser tongues will not survive the century. How were its Cornish speakers doing? 

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