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23 September 2014
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The Voices Recordings
Interviewee John Hamon

Born: 28 December 1924

Lives: Sark, Channel Islands

Time lived in area: All my life

Occupation: Greffier of Sark, farrier

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Listen to
John talks about how the Sark language is slowly getting lost because people don't use it.

Language of interview: English

Duration: 0:25 (mins/secs)

About the interview

The participants were asked to describe how they spoke in their own words.

How do you describe your accent: "Strong Sark accent."

Have there been other influences on the way you speak: Not Given

Do you have skills in languages other than English?: Yes

Other languages: Sark Patois

About this interview
JOHN: It is uh definitely not. It's going away, going away. Even I who have been bought - brought up with it ... er .. when two Sark people get to - ch- I'm getting to the stage I'm having to think hard er as to how to use the word or uh pronounce it and all that sort of thing. It comes after a while. It, it begins to flow. 'Cause we don't use it you see.
More about the speech in this clip

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes

John accurately describes a process known as language death. In extreme cases, a language disappears if all its speakers are wiped out by an epidemic or genocide, but in most cases of language death a language or dialect gradually becomes less widely spoken over time until it simply fades away or is preserved in folk memory and ritual ceremony alone. In multilingual communities where more than one language co-exists, social, economic and political pressures often lead to one language gaining increasing dominance within a community. As this continues over time the number of contexts in which a minority language is spoken diminishes and more and more young speakers adopt the dominant language for all purposes of communication. Inevitably, then, the older generation have fewer and fewer opportunities to speak the ancestral tongue and thus their individual fluency, too, erodes over time.

John feels even he, who grew up speaking Sark patois, can often take a considerable time to choose the right word or find the right expression now - an experience shared by many immigrant communities, whose younger generation speakers often find they are less competent in their ethnic language as adults than they were as children, if they have immersed themselves in the dominant culture and language.

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