(c) Marc Nash, 30 Oct 2014
I was the last in my line. The final native speaker of my language. It would die out with me since none would follow. For I had neither progeny nor converts. The concept of converts is a ridiculous one anyway, we ought solely to be learning our mother tongue at our mother’s knee. Our language doesn’t even have a word for ‘convert’.
Not that I haven’t striven my hardest. I’ve played on the emotional appeal of our tribe in peril without our indigenous tongue. I’ve tried to cajole, seduce, flatter and bully, again all to no avail. My kithmen refuse to have me pour our words into their cloth ears. The ewer holding our vernacular is cracked and the word flow has dribbled away into the dust.
Our argot is an expressive one. Born of our rural roots, it is all facial articulation and gesture. It is simply impossible to dissimulate and deceive, unlike the measured blankness of the face that lies behind enunciation of the prevailing cant in these parts. There you can conceal anything and all meaning is shrouded and dissipated. So even though those I petition cannot understand my alien vocalisations, likely they can still glean my desperate hectoring of them. I can’t simultaneously smile and talk of our dying lexicon, the shape of the words simply will not permit me to. When I try and beseech them in their own language, they shrug and pronounce themselves happy with the pastel palette provided for by the dominant parlance. Our language has no word for ‘progress’ either. Yet it is the word that keeps being thrown back at me.
And it is true, my own tongue is diluted and collapsing under the weight of import words to deal with the modern world and its advances. This is why the mothers shunned nourishing their babes with it, for perennially looking backwards in what constructions it could furnish, it would fail to equip them for life. And as soon as it ceases being passed down the maternal line, then it takes very few generations for it to become extinct. And time is what I lack as I near my own expiration. Even if I found a willing candidate, time is too short for them to assimilate sufficiently sized a vocabulary to preserve the language as a workable one.
I’ve even ventured outside of our bloodline, entreating the sense of tragedy, the romantic, the exotic, the academic, the idle indexers, but with no takers. The academics suggested I might at least set it down in a lexicon where it might have a stab at being preserved in a dusty library stack. I pointed out to them that our language was an oral tongue only. It certainly didn’t abide by any written alphabetic characters and could never expect to be contained by a symbolic system. They shrugged and returned to perusing texts behind their half-moon glasses as they eclipsed the feeble rays of my hope.
This was how the sovereign language operated. It didn’t persecute either us, or our florid tongue. It let us be and was completely indifferent to whether we existed or not. And that was sufficient to fell us. We had no cause to rally to, no injustices to try and hew slogans to hurl at them. Which was just as well since our language didn’t lend itself to airy sloganeering. We just drifted over to the monolith that was this language so powerful, it didn’t have to broadcast its strengths and virtues. The virtue of possessing a greater muscularity than our own tongue. We paled by comparison with it. Our words became ghostly, tugging at the sleeve uselessly for address.
I am exhausted in my quest to find a lingual heir, as exhausted now as all the spent leads. I am so weary, the search has propelled my frail body closer towards death and yet I veer back from the precipice of annulment, by the knowledge I cannot extinguish my language by permitting myself to expire. And in those utterly defeated moments when I can do nothing but lie back in my chair and let the thoughts assail me, I wonder if I have been chosen to be yoked to the burden of being the last keeper of this particular tongue as some sort of punishment. Since we certainly have that concept in our vocabulary. My mother may have been the sole woman among her generation not to betray our race by passing on her language, but I myself may just have now forsaken us all. For as I said I have no progeny. I never took a wife. How was I supposed to know I was the last speaker of our kind when I pursued male lovers? For though I couldn’t dissemble, I was protected by another lacuna in our native tongue. Our language has no word for homosexuality.
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Marc Nash has published 4 novels and 4 collections of flash fiction. He lives and works in London.
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