Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nearly 3,000 Languages Facing Extinction

The world’s human languages are disappearing about about as quickly as species are going extinct. Of the 6,900 languages spoken in the world, 2,500 are now endangered, according to the United Nations.

That’s a huge increase from the last atlas compiled in 2001, which listed 900 languages threatened with extinction.
  • There are 199 languages in the world spoken by fewer than a dozen people, including Karaim with six speakers in Ukraine, and Wichita, spoken by 10 people in Oklahoma.
  • The last four speakers of Lengilu talk among themselves in Indonesia.
  • Some 178 other languages are spoken by between 10 and 150 people.
More than 200 languages have become extinct over the last three generations, such as Ubykh that fell silent in 1992 when Tefvic Esenc passed on, Aasax in Tanzania, which disappeared in 1976, and Manx in 1974.

India tops the list of countries with the greatest number of endangered languages, 196 in all, followed by the United States, which stands to lose 192 and Indonesia, where 147 are in peril.

Click here for the complete Discovery article.

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