THE PROBLEM – LANGUAGE DEATH By now, it is well documented that languages are vanishing at a rate that has never been seen before. Since 1500 AD, the world has lost about 15% of the 7000 languages we think were spoken then, and the pace is quickening dramatically. In just the last few dozens of […]
The most important thing that can be done to keep a language from disappearing is to create favourable conditions for its speakers to speak the language and teach it to their children. This often requires national policies that recognize and protect minority languages, education systems that promote mother-tongue instruction, and creative collaboration between community members […]
UNESCO acts on many fronts to safeguard endangered languages and prevent their disappearance: In education, UNESCO supports policies promoting multilingualism and especially mother tongue literacy; it supports the language component of indigenous education; and raises awareness of the importance of language preservation in education. In culture, UNESCO collects data on endangered and indigenous languages, develops […]
The linguists who edited the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger agreed that it should include not only languages that are endangered, but also those that have become extinct in the last half century or so. When we say that a language is extinct, we mean that it is no longer the first […]
The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is the result of an international collaboration of more than thirty linguists from around the world (see Contributors), some of whom had already been involved in the previous two editions. The editor-in-chief is Christopher Moseley, whose works include the Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages (London: Routledge 2007) […]
It is impossible to estimate the total number of languages that have disappeared over human history. Linguists have calculated the numbers of extinct languages for certain regions, such as, for instance, Europe and Asia Minor (75 languages) or the United States (115 languages lost in the last five centuries, of some 280 spoken at the […]
Regions with the greatest linguistic diversity are also the ones with the most endangered languages (for instance, Melanesia, Sub-Saharan Africa or South America). But endangered languages can be found in every region and in almost every country in the world.
In the normal course of human history, languages disappear and new ones appear, and this remains true today. New languages may be the result of a conscious effort (Esperanto) or other processes such as pidginization (development of a simplified, mixed language for communication among two or more groups) or creolization (development of a mixed language […]
A language is endangered when its speakers cease to use it, use it in fewer and fewer domains, use fewer of its registers and speaking styles, and/or stop passing it on to the next generation. No single factor determines whether a language is endangered, but UNESCO experts have identified nine that should be considered together: […]
A language disappears when its speakers disappear or when they shift to speaking another language – most often, a larger language used by a more powerful group. Languages are threatened by external forces such as military, economic, religious, cultural or educational subjugation, or by internal forces such as a community’s negative attitude towards its own language. Today, increased migration […]
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