One in four languages endangered
One in four languages around the world are likely to die out because of increased economic development, according to research from the University of Cambridge.
The study found that languages in countries with growing economies were going extinct faster than languages in slower developing countries.
“Efforts to prevent this cultural loss are severely constrained by a poor understanding of the geographical patterns and drivers of extinction risk,” the study’s author wrote, recommending that conservation be focused in the most developed areas, like north Australia, north-western U.S. and Canada and Himalayan regions.
To identify languages that are going extinct, researchers used the same standards as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which determines a species risk of extinction based on population size (or the number of speakers), geographic range and population change (or how fewer speakers there are). Some, like Upper Tanana in eastern Alaska, have just two dozen active speakers. The Wichita language of the Plain Indians, now in Oklahoma, has just one known speaker left.
The United Nations estimates that without conservation efforts, half of the world’s 6,000 languages will be gone by the end of this century. While there is no hope for extinct animals, languages can be learned and people can be bilingual.
Explore the endangered language interactive map at UNESCO