The Endangered Language List

| 9/2/2011 4:55:40 PM


Of the 7,000 rich, varied languages spoken in the world today, only half will be around at the end of the century unless we make efforts to save them, reports Miller-McCune’s Emily Badger. But if people can communicate without them, why do obscure languages matter? She writes:

As the famous example says, Eskimo have numerous words to describe what Americans would just call “snow” and “ice.” This suggests language systems don’t merely translate universal ideas into different spellings; they encode different concepts. And when we lose a language, we risk losing those concepts.

Last month, a joint program of the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities called Documenting Endangered Languages received $3.9 million in funding to record and preserve disappearing dialects. Says Badger:

The project may sound like a punch line for another anti-science tirade from a small-government politician, but its work touches on fundamental questions about how the brain works, how people express ideas, how societies adapt, and how human history has evolved.

Some of these languages are spoken by fewer than 30 elders, and most members of the next generation are not learning them, making the need for preservation immediate. Below are ten of the unique languages that researchers are endeavoring to save, along with links to their programs.

Bangime, Northern Bali
Navajo, Southwestern U.S.
Kosati, Louisiana
Witchita, Oklahoma
Arawak, Brazil
Máíhiki, Peru
Cherokee, Southeastern U.S.
Chechen, the Caucasis
Southeastern Tepehuan, Mexico
Defaka, Nigeria 

Source: Miller-McCune 

Image by laogooli, licensed under Creative Commons.

4/4/2014 10:34:29 AM

It's quite crazy that so many are becoming extinct these days. As speach becomes more generic we will see more unique ones filter out and be used less and less, but how are people going to communicate with these lost ones?

9/12/2011 10:28:20 AM

Bangime should be in north Mali, not Bali. Yes, it's not just fresh water being wasted by melting icecaps and glaciers, Ogallala aquifers per year; it's not just genomes being wasted as the death of vertebrate species accelerates, with all the care of threatened or endangered kinds; it's the very thoughts humans have had being frittered away in a collective Alzheimer's... unless a great Shock wakes humanity to its weak, distracted state and teaches it the kindergarten lesson, so far poorly understood, of sharing.

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