Thursday, September 20, 2007

Native Languages Dying

Five "language hotspots" -- where indigenous languages are most endangered -- were identified by the Enduring Voices Project of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society. These hotspots -- eastern Siberia, northern Australia, central South America, Oklahoma, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest -- have the highest diversity of languages spoken, the highest levels of endangerment to the language, and the least studied and least documented languages.

Of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world, more than half are on the verge of extinction. In some cases, there is only one person left that speaks a language. When the last speaker dies, the language dies and takes centuries of knowledge with it.
  • One language dies about every two weeks.
  • Around half of the languages currently spoken have never been written down.
  • Around 80% of the world's population speak 83 languages.
  • 3,500 smallest languages account for just 0.2 percent of the world's people.
  • Oklahoma has one of the highest densities of native languages in the United States.
Check out Languages Racing to Extinction in 5 Global "Hotspots" from the National Geographic News and Vanishing Languages Identified: Oklahoma Is Among Places Where Tongues Are Disappearing from the Washington Post.

Want more information on Native Americans in the United States? Check out the library's subject guide.

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