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Are we going to be out of a job soon? ('2,500 languages threatened with extinction')
Thread poster: Edward Potter

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
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Feb 20, 2009

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090219/ts_afp/worldlanguagesunesco

2,500 languages threatened with extinction: UNESCO
by Amer Ouali Amer Ouali – Thu Feb 19, 12:17 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – The world has lost Manx in the Isle of Man, Ubykh in Turkey and last year Alaska's last native speaker of Eyak, Marie Smith Jones, died, taking the aboriginal language with her.

Of the 6,900 languages spoken in the world, some 2,500 are endangered, the UN's cultural agency UNESCO said Thursday as it released its latest atlas of world languages.

That represents a multi-fold increase from the last atlas compiled in 2001 which listed 900 languages threatened with extinction.

But experts say this is more the result of better research tools than of an increasingly dire situation for the world's many tongues.

Still there is disheartening news.

There are 199 languages in the world spoken by fewer than a dozen people, including Karaim which has six speakers in Ukraine and Wichita, spoken by 10 people in the US state of Oklahoma.

The last four speakers of Lengilu talk among themselves in Indonesia.

Prospects are a bit brighter for some 178 other languages, 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.

Australian linguist Christopher Moseley, who headed the atlas' team of 25 experts, noted that countries with rich linguistic diversity like India and the United States are also facing the greatest threat of language extinction.

Even Sub-Saharan Africa's melting pot of some 2,000 languages is expected to shrink by at least 10 percent over the coming century, according to UNESCO.

On UNESCO's rating scale, 538 languages are critically endangered, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered and 607 unsafe.

On a brighter note, Papua New Guinea, the country of 800 languages, the most diverse in the world, has only 88 endangered dialects.

Certain languages are even showing signs of a revival, like Cornish, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, southern England, and Sishee in New Caledonia.

Governments in Peru, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Mexico have been successful in their efforts to prevent indigenous languages from dying out.

UNESCO deputy director Francoise Riviere applauded government efforts to support linguistic diversity but added that "people have to be proud to speak their language" to ensure it thrives.



[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-02-20 17:29 GMT]


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
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Linguistic diversity in the US? Feb 20, 2009

Edward Potter wrote:

Australian linguist Christopher Moseley, who headed the atlas' team of 25 experts, noted that countries with rich linguistic diversity like India and the United States are also facing the greatest threat of language extinction.



Linguistic diversity in the US? As Johnny Carson would have said, I did not know that.


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 15:42
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True Darwinists - To your marks please Feb 20, 2009

Since speakers of languages, unlike translators, reproduce (or fail to), this is definitely a fit topic for Darwinist speculation.

Related article here:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218140348.htm
which draws rather spurious-sounding conclusions to my ear.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
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I don't think that Manx can have become extinct in 1974 Feb 20, 2009

They were promoting it at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in two successive years when I was there in the early 1980s, and there were at least one or two native speakers of it still around then, as far as I understood from the man I spoke to there, who was promoting it.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
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The world evolves, some people are always left behind Feb 20, 2009

Yes, it is always sad that a piece of human culture is lost. But let's not forget that mankind lives in a frantic, speedy evolution ever since our species exists, and that other human species in pre-history, complete cultures in modern times, complete religions, complete nations have disappeared already for a number of reasons.

The world keeps changing, evolving and advancing, and peoples and cultures who fail to adapt (independently of whether they want to adapt or not) will always be in disadvantage and will eventually disappear. This is and will be part of the history of mankind I reckon. If we want to take the good parts of our evolution, we have to accept the bad parts.


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Alan R King
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What...? Feb 20, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Yes, it is always sad that a piece of human culture is lost. But let's not forget that mankind lives in a frantic, speedy evolution ever since our species exists, and that other human species in pre-history, complete cultures in modern times, complete religions, complete nations have disappeared already for a number of reasons.

The world keeps changing, evolving and advancing, and peoples and cultures who fail to adapt (independently of whether they want to adapt or not) will always be in disadvantage and will eventually disappear. This is and will be part of the history of mankind I reckon. If we want to take the good parts of our evolution, we have to accept the bad parts.


Yeah, I guess you could say the same about the whale. And the rain forests. In fact, why not about the whole human species?


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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The Jurassic Park solution Feb 20, 2009

Well, they cloned dinosaur eggs...

No kidding. Some language revivals are taken up by nostalgics who really have no business in them. Others are recycled in laboratories... I'm sure you could find more than one Latin fan outside the Vatican, or modern Greeks and non-Greeks who love the old. Some time ago, I found a dictionary of Accadian into target German.

Sorry if I'm going OT, but this kind of "language love" really impresses me.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
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Transmitting the heritage... Feb 20, 2009

My solution would be to transmit the linguistic heritage while there is still time to do so. As far as my "linguistic community" is concerned, this was done and continues to be done by using the Internet (among others)!

Example: http://www.gottschee.com (audio files with transcription and "translation" in standard AT German)

Laurent K.

[Edited at 2009-02-20 12:16 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
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What part is false? Feb 20, 2009

Alan R King wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Yes, it is always sad that a piece of human culture is lost. But let's not forget that mankind lives in a frantic, speedy evolution ever since our species exists, and that other human species in pre-history, complete cultures in modern times, complete religions, complete nations have disappeared already for a number of reasons.
The world keeps changing, evolving and advancing, and peoples and cultures who fail to adapt (independently of whether they want to adapt or not) will always be in disadvantage and will eventually disappear. This is and will be part of the history of mankind I reckon. If we want to take the good parts of our evolution, we have to accept the bad parts.

Yeah, I guess you could say the same about the whale. And the rain forests. In fact, why not about the whole human species?


Alan, what part of my assessment is plain false? Please explain.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
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Linguistic diversity in the US Feb 20, 2009

Anil Gidwani wrote:
Linguistic diversity in the US? As Johnny Carson would have said, I did not know that.


As with Carson, you must be joking. You lived in New York for 15 years, you should know. In addition to all the immigrant languages there are also the native ones, of course. Joe Sixpack doesn't set the tone everywhere, and in some parts of the country, he probably has a working knowledge of Spanish anyway


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
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Languages, whales and rain forests Feb 21, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Alan R King wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
The world keeps changing, evolving and advancing, and peoples and cultures who fail to adapt (independently of whether they want to adapt or not) will always be in disadvantage and will eventually disappear. This is and will be part of the history of mankind I reckon. If we want to take the good parts of our evolution, we have to accept the bad parts.

Yeah, I guess you could say the same about the whale. And the rain forests. In fact, why not about the whole human species?

Alan, what part of my assessment is plain false? Please explain.


Alan didn't say that anything was false
He merely pointed out a couple of logically connected ideas.

Perhaps this can be seen in the light of the fact that Alan posted some time ago that he is involved in a project to preserve an endangered language in Central America (Alan, have you got the link handy?). So Alan is actually doing something to halt the decline of at least one language and preserve a bit of cultural diversity. I admire him for the work that he is doing.


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Alan R King
Local time: 08:42
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Language recovery vs. soulless Darwinism Feb 21, 2009

Victor Dewsbery wrote:
Perhaps this can be seen in the light of the fact that Alan posted some time ago that he is involved in a project to preserve an endangered language in Central America (Alan, have you got the link handy?). So Alan is actually doing something to halt the decline of at least one language and preserve a bit of cultural diversity. I admire him for the work that he is doing.


Additionally, I have spent thirty years supporting Basque language recovery efforts. And I also actively support the Catalan and Galician language movements in the Spanish state, and the Welsh language movement, and that for Hawaiian and other languages around the world whose survival is currently being threatened by globalisation and/or which have been forced into a minority status even on their own traditional territories and among their own native speakers through historical processes of domination, persecution, intolerance and genocide.

In a nutshell, I am in favour of both protecting and recovering threatened linguistic diversity, everywhere. That is my manifesto but I am not planning to get into any more mudslinging with "Darwinists" on this. It simply isn't worth the effort and I'm too busy. While we are talking, languages are dying... But the rest of you please go ahead! I do think this debate is necessary.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
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Found the link Feb 21, 2009

Alan's language preservation and Bible translation project is mentioned here:
http://www.proz.com/forum/linguistic_diversity/121855-nawat_bible_project_website.html

And Alan, I'm delighted to hear about your other language activities (Basque, Catalan, Galician, Welsh, Hawaian and others). I first learned about linguistic diversity when I studied in Wales (I come from the centre of England, so I didn't know about the language before). I didn't manage to learn the language apart from a couple of stock phrases, but the experience opened my mind to the fascination of languages. Here in Germany, I went on an informational trip to the Sorbian-speaking region a few years ago, and was again fascinated by the language diversity.

More recently, I have been interested to learn of languages which have had to fight for recognition here on Proz (such as Silheti - still not listed - and Macedonian), and also to learn of attempts to revive languages like Cornish.

I am equally fascinated by the pattern of dialects in various countries - even if they are not sufficiently distinct to feature as different languages in the UNESCO study. I certainly know of very marked dialects in the UK and in Germany which are not easy to understand in other parts of the country, but which fall below the UNESCO radar.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
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What is the logic? Feb 22, 2009

Victor Dewsbery wrote:
Alan didn't say that anything was false
He merely pointed out a couple of logically connected ideas.


Hm... It might sound like a logical sequence for you, but I see no logic in connecting the extinction of a language and killing whales. Maybe it's time to examine whether we are putting too many unconnected things in a way of thinking that is surprisingly standard and globalised too.


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Alexandre Coutu
Canada
Local time: 01:42
English to French
More languages than before? Mar 25, 2009

As for being out of a job, if you are translating a language that is almost extinct, you are pretty much already out of a job.

While I can't help sympathize with the loss of a language and of a culture, I do agree that it is a normal and constant process. When a language dies, that branch stops growing. Same as with any living species.

Since we have the highest population we ever had, we probably have more languages than we ever had. We are most certainly more aware of the death of any language than we ever were.


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