If you live in northern Australia, eastern Siberia, British Columbia, Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon and nearly any place in the South America — chances are a local language is taking its last breath. According to Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society, a language dies every two weeks. This is important because nearly 80 percent of the world’s population speaks only one percent of its languages. When the last speaker of a language dies, the world loses the knowledge that was contained in that language. And, that’s bad news for everyone.
National Geographic has produced an interesting and informative interactive web site called Enduring Voices, which is dedicated to documenting endangered languages and preventing language extinction by identifying the most crucial areas where languages are endangered and embarking on expeditions to:
- Understand the geographic dimensions of language distribution
- Determine how linguistic diversity is linked to biodiversity
- Bring wide attention to the issue of language loss
An article in World Science provides a nice summary of the project and its importance.