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Life

Linguist races to document Cambodia's dying S'aoch language

End nears for minority group whose local history stretches back centuries

Jean-Michel Filippi, a French linguistics expert, left, talks with Knoi, a village elder who still speaks the S'aoch language. (Photo by Denis D. Gray)

VEAL RENH, Cambodia -- Jean-Michel Filippi is racing against the clock: Only 10 speakers remain of an ancient language the French linguistic expert is recording before it surely dies, taking with it much of the culture of its people.

Downtrodden for centuries, devastated by the bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, and mired in extreme poverty, less than 100 survivors of the S'aoch ethnic minority now lead a marginal existence in the village of Veal Renh, in southwestern Cambodia.

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