A little bit of history is petering out in eastern Missouri—a dialect known as paw-paw French introduced centuries ago by settlers in the region. In a story on the decline in the community of Old Mines, Al Jazeera America figures the number of speakers left is in the "dozens," most of whom are in their 70s and 80s. The tale is a familiar one for linguists: At some point, parents started discouraging their kids from using the dialect in favor of English to avoid being seen as uneducated. Generations later, appreciation for the dialect is on the rise, but it may be too late to salvage it in any substantive way.
“Essentially the French that’s spoken in Old Mines is a Norman-Britain French," says one speaker trying to keep it alive. "That really hearkens back to the Middle Ages, into the medieval period. That’s what’s going to be lost.” Paw-Paw French is at a disadvantage to, say, Cajun French in Louisiana, because scholars haven't paid it the same kind of interest in recent decades. Click for the full story, which includes audio samples. Or read about a new language that has sprung up in a remote part of Australia. (Read more paw paw French stories.)