1,500 languages ​​could be lost by 2100


A new study has found that of the 7,000 languages ​​recognized in the world, about half are currently endangered.

Nearly a fifth of the world’s languages ​​could disappear by the end of the century, warns a new study.

A study by the Australian National University (ANU) published in the online journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found that about half of the 7,000 recognized languages ​​in the world are currently endangered, of which 1,500 are particularly threatened.

“We found that without immediate intervention, language loss could triple over the next 40 years. And by the end of this century, 1,500 languages ​​may cease to be spoken, ”said Professor Lindell Bromham, co-author of the study.

So what is behind the increasing pressure on languages?

According to the study, there are up to 51 stressors on endangered native languages.

Using an analysis of more than 6,500 languages ​​with variables covering population, documentation, legal recognition, educational policy, socio-economic indicators and environmental characteristics, the study shows that contact with other languages is not necessarily a factor in language loss.

“Contact with other local languages ​​is not the problem – in fact, languages ​​in contact with many other indigenous languages ​​tend to be less endangered,” said Professor Bromham.

Instead, unexpected factors like longer years of schooling have shown increased levels of language danger in some countries. Another surprising predictor of linguistic threat was a well-developed road network.

“[W]We have found that the more roads connecting countries to cities and villages to cities, the greater the risk of endangering languages. It’s as if the roads are helping dominant languages ​​’steamroll’ over other, smaller languages, ”Bromham explained.

To stem the trend of linguistic erosion, the study argues for a curriculum that supports bilingual education and encourages both mother tongue proficiency and the use of regionally dominant languages . Investing in linguistic documentation is also crucial.

Native language erasure

Of the more than 7,000 languages ​​spoken by the world’s 7.9 billion people, half of them speak only 24 languages ​​and 95% speak 400.

That leaves just five percent of the world’s population speaking some 6,600 languages, with hundreds spoken by fewer than ten people.

The main driver of linguistic extinction is a process known as language change, when speakers switch from indigenous languages ​​to the dominant national language.

The areas of greatest language loss have occurred in Australia, Canada and the United States, where more than 70 percent of languages ​​are highly endangered or no longer spoken, being abandoned in favor of English.

The ANU study also found important lessons for the preservation of many endangered languages ​​spoken by the indigenous peoples of Australia, who have particularly suffered from catastrophic rates of language loss.

“Australia has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of language loss in the world,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Professor Felicity Meakins.

“Before colonization, over 250 Indigenous languages ​​were spoken and multilingualism was the norm. Today, only 40 languages ​​are still spoken and only 12 are learned by children.

Meakins called for more funding and support for Indigenous languages. “Australia spends only $ 20.89 per year per native population on languages, which is appalling compared to Canada’s $ 69.30 and New Zealand’s $ 296.44.”

As UNESCO’s Indigenous Languages ​​Decade begins next month, the study’s findings are the latest reminder that urgent action is needed to preserve languages ​​at risk.

“When a language is lost, or when it ‘sleeps’ as we say for languages ​​that are no longer spoken, we lose so much of our human cultural diversity. Each language is brilliant in its own way, ”said Professor Bromham.

“Many languages ​​that are expected to be lost in this century still have fluent speakers, so there is always room to invest in supporting communities to revitalize Indigenous languages ​​and keep them strong for future generations. ”

The loss of languages ​​carries the added risk of losing a wealth of knowledge related to native plants and animals – the kind of information conservationists need to protect endangered species.

Some conservation biologists believe that indigenous communities, many of which are clustered in regions with the greatest natural biodiversity, are custodians of 99 percent of the world’s genetic diversity.

Languages, like species, therefore deserve to be preserved for themselves.

Source: TRT World


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