Linguicide or "language death" is the literal extinction of a language or dialect, meaning that there ar no longer any living native speakers of said language, reasons this happens can be attributed to many factors, the most prevalent being
1. isolation: the vast majority of these being tribal in origin, e.g. Blackfoot (which I need to learn before it goes exict, being part blackfoot myself), Piraha (from inner Brazil) and Guaranalum (from new Ireland, Papua new guinea, because of small populations of people in the first place, tribal languages like these are under constant threa of extinction, even the smallest tragedy drastically raises chances of linguicide. this factor is perhaps the most deadly, due to the uncontrollability, since it works from within.
2. multilingualism via globalization: a product of expansion, people feel the need to learn another like english, out of feelings of necessity for job opportunities, migration or myriad other reasons. and as a result, in many cases, new children are taught the "more useful language" and their parents native tongue, but due societal pressures and lack of "application" first-generation children don’t tend to become fluent in their parents first language. and as the generations go by, less stress is placed on teaching the children how to speak their culture’s language, thus placin a "cap" so to speak on the knowledge of their respective tongue
it is estimated that there are ~7000 languages on the planet, of those, 2000-2700 are endangered and out of those 2000+ laguages, more than 400 are classified as nearly extinct http://www.ethnologue.com/nearly_extinct.asp
now of those critically endangered languages, about a quarter are spoken by fewer than a dozen estimated people….saddening, isn’t it?
but then again national census estimations can be very inaccurate, so the true numbers can be much larger or much smaller… which is no less alarming.
it has also been estimated that, by the turn of the century, as many as 50-90 percent of all languages will go extinct or be considered endangered.
this got me thinking…sure it’s god that I could go to just about every country on the earth and find someone who speaks english, while I do appreciate that fact, what is to be said of those old languages that you’d seldom find someone fluent in outside of the area it is spoken? these unsung tongues could fade away in the blink of an eye and no one would know. language is one of the defining factors of cultural diversity and once they die, they stay that way with few exceptions.
almost makes me wanna have a bunch of kids and give them names that are words from endangered languages and do everything in my power to make sure they learn how to speak the origin of their name, but alas it is a losing battle, even with numerous effeorts put in place to preserve languages the harsh reality is, most just ain’t gonna make it.
also worth note, if we the HEthens constructed r own unique language and everyone here was fluent in it….it’d be considered by UNESCO to be endangered since the number of speakers is less than 10,000
and now to talk to a man about learnind american Blackfoot
I don’t really get it though, they’re just languages. Ways of communication. As long as people can communicate, that’s great, does it matter what language they’re speaking? Just think about how many languages have died in the past, and how many languages will die in the future, how is this any different from what’s going on now?
I mean, I could be sad about windows 95 not being used any more, or vcr or T-fords, I could get sad about dinosaurs not being alive, or homo erectus not being aroung. But it makes no sense to me. Just like these things, languages are just tools. They continually develop, some old stuff has to go when new stuff arrives. Nothing lasts, why get attached? This world is a continuous process, especially human culture. Things are created, then they are destroyed and forgotten, just like us.
A language dies sooner or later.
It’s just the sounds humans have used to communicate ideas and information, however if people couldn’t comprehend certain knowledge because the language doesn’t include it, then you have a problem.
But that sound and communication is unique to the culture that holds it. Each is a unique understanding through which the world is understood. When you loose that diversity, you loose a part of creativity and new understanding. Its the same as the many species that are going extinct. Once you lose the diversity, you lose understanding. Understanding is how we progress.
@peter: my thoughts exactly. each individual language give the person that speaks it a deep connection to their respective culture, whether they realize it or not, moreover it is this diversity of communication styles and methods that make humans unique among the animal kingdom and if we’re losing this integral diversity at such an alarming rate (one every two weeks), why speak at all?
language tells us about the people that speak it. Each culture sees the world differently (as a society) and it is interesting to see the difference in communication not only in language structure, but the types of sounds used, and the words chosen to express an idea.
For example, in English, when you love someone, you say “I love you,” whether they are a friend or lover. In Italian, if you love your lover you say “Ti amo,” but you would tell your best friend “Ti voglio bene.”
It’s still a tool, like Manimal said, but it is a little more important than that, I think. Or at least more interesting.
There is definite reason to speak but I think one of the main culprits of the loss of diversity in language is globalization. I don’t think there is much any one person can do about it. People are realizing that it is much more practical to learn english as a means to better interact with the leading capitalist nations and increase their wealth.
The best way to protect the diversity is to preserve the language and record it. Maybe at some point in the future descendants of the cultures will want to revive the language and bring back this new understanding.
Language is able to put us in many different relations with the world. If a language goes extinct, alot of knowledge and perspectives die with it. Which is a shame, because diversity is fundamental for flourishing. If we only have 1 language left, there sources for renewal are less, thus we could be ending up with a kind of language incest. Every change is just a weak imitation.
The opposite of this also holds truth. When new cultures learn new languages, they learn new concepts and new perspectives, giving them the tools they might have lacked otherwise. They also influence the language they learn, thus injecting whole new domains of being into the big blend of world culture. I am curious to see how english will get transformed in the next few generations, since alot of african/asian countries talk a kind of hybrid english.
In my last article I mentioned the book: Spell of the senuous, a must read if you want to understand the importance of language.
@ Martijn, I wholeheartedly agree with you, all of the wisdom, cultural perspectives and and antropological treasures that’d be lost is almost humanly unfathomable
to us, verbal communication is a great gem of immeasurable size, and each language represents one of it’s facets, each time one of it’s facets goes “dull”,our world gem becomes that much less precious. and how do we call it what it was when only a few of it’s faces remain “lustrous”?