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Livonian folk customs and natural knowledge as preserved by the descendants of its last speakers in Latvia

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Title:Livonian folk customs and natural knowledge as preserved by the descendants of its last speakers in Latvia
Authors:Moseley, Christopher
Contributors:Moseley, Christopher (speaker)
Date Issued:02 Mar 2017
Description:Livonian, a Finno-Ugric language once spoken on the Baltic coast of western Latvia, has lost its last mother-tongue speaker in the past decade; it can be safely said to be the most recent language to die out in Europe. ‘Livonian’, as an ethic identity, lives on in modern Latvian culture, and is even recognized in the country’s passports as a nationality. The former territory of its speakers is now a Nature Reserve, and the country’s government is anxious to preserve the cultural heritage and natural environment, whose main source of income was fishing. This paper examines the various strands of preservation of folk knowledge and its contribution to a sense of ethnic identity, even while the language is being revitalized by younger generations of heritage speakers. Fortunately the language and culture have been well documented since the mid-nineteenth century, and the habitat of the language is quite well preserved, even if its means of livelihood is not, and its continuous speaker base has vanished. For the strong revitalization of a language, its ties to its ancestral land must be emphasized. The Livonians’ way of life was markedly different to that of their neighbours, the Latvians and Estonians, and there is much documentary evidence for this. The following aspects of the ancient, largely pre-Christian, Livonian culture will be examined, with visual and aural samples: - Folk beliefs - Flora and fauna, medicinal knowledge - Customs associated with transitional stages of life - Folk songs and tales - Survivals of pagan practices References: (Author) 1994: Language attrition and death: Livonian in its terminal phase (M.Phil. thesis, University of London 1993) K. Boiko (ed.): Lībieši: Rakstu krājums (Riga 1994) (Livonians: collection of articles) R.Blumberga, T,Mäkeläinen, K.Pajusalu (eds.): Lībieši: vesture, valoda un kultūra (Riga 2013) (Livonians: history, language and culture) V.Šuvcāne: Lībiešu ciems, kura vairs nav (Riga 2008) (The Livonian village that no longer exists)
Appears in Collections: 5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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