More than 1,500 languages - about one-fifth (20%) of the world’s 7,000 languages - may no longer be spoken on Earth by the end of our century, according to a new international interdisciplinary study. On average, at least one spoken language on the planet may disappear every month by 2100.
Researchers from various fields of science (biologists, mathematicians, linguists, etc.), led by Professor of Evolutionary Biology Lindel Bromham of the Australian National University, published their findings in the journal Ecology and Evolution Ecology , examined the risk faced by thousands of languages based on 51 factors (legal recognition of a language, demographic characteristics of its users, central educational policies of the country, climate change and other environmental data, socio-economic indicators, etc.). They concluded that the loss of languages is expected to increase fivefold by 2100 compared to current levels.
“We found that, without immediate intervention, language loss could triple over the next 40 years. “By the end of this century, 1,500 languages may have ceased to be spoken,” Bronham said. As he said, of the total of about 7,000 recognized languages on the planet, almost half are threatened with extinction.
As the level of education increases and the duration of the years of education increases, so does the threat of the extinction of several languages. Therefore, researchers point out the need not to certainly put a “brake” on education, but to support bilingual compulsory education, with the aim of strengthening indigenous languages within the education system.
Also, according to the study, the more roads there are in an area, connecting cities with the most remote areas of a country, the greater the risk for local languages spoken by small populations, as this, as Bronham said, “helps the dominant languages to act as rollers over the other smaller languages ”.
He added that when a language is lost or “asleep”, as we say about languages that are no longer spoken, we lose so much of human cultural diversity. Every language is great in its own way. “Many of the languages that are predicted to be lost in this century still have capable speakers, so we have not lost the opportunity to invest in supporting their communities in order to revitalize indigenous languages and preserve them for future generations.”
Some more pessimistic scholars, however, do not rule out that by the beginning of the 22nd century up to 90% of today’s languages may no longer be spoken by anyone.
Link to the scientific publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-021-01604-y
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