Endangered language

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An endangered language or moribund language, is a language that is at risk of disappearing as its speakers die out or shift to speaking other languages. Endangered language_sentence_0

Language loss occurs when the language has no more native speakers and becomes a "dead language". Endangered language_sentence_1

If no one can speak the language at all, it becomes an "extinct language". Endangered language_sentence_2

A dead language may still be studied through recordings or writings, but it is still dead or extinct unless there are fluent speakers. Endangered language_sentence_3

Although languages have always become extinct throughout human history, they are currently dying at an accelerated rate because of globalization, imperialism, neocolonialism and linguicide (language killing). Endangered language_sentence_4

Language shift most commonly occurs when speakers switch to a language associated with social or economic power or spoken more widely, the ultimate result being language death. Endangered language_sentence_5

The general consensus is that there are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages currently spoken and that between 50% and 90% of them will have become extinct by the year 2100. Endangered language_sentence_6

The 20 most common languages, each with more than 50 million speakers, are spoken by 50% of the world's population, but most languages are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. Endangered language_sentence_7

On a more general level, 0.2% of the world's languages are spoken by half of the world's population. Endangered language_sentence_8

Furthermore, 96% of the world's languages are spoken by 4% of the population. Endangered language_sentence_9

The first step towards language death is potential endangerment. Endangered language_sentence_10

This is when a language faces strong external pressure, but there are still communities of speakers who pass the language to their children. Endangered language_sentence_11

The second stage is endangerment. Endangered language_sentence_12

Once a language has reached the endangerment stage, there are only a few speakers left and children are, for the most part, not learning the language. Endangered language_sentence_13

The third stage of language extinction is seriously endangered. Endangered language_sentence_14

During this stage, a language is unlikely to survive another generation and will soon be extinct. Endangered language_sentence_15

The fourth stage is moribund, followed by the fifth stage extinction. Endangered language_sentence_16

Many projects are under way aimed at preventing or slowing language loss by revitalizing endangered languages and promoting education and literacy in minority languages, often involving joint projects between language communities and linguists. Endangered language_sentence_17

Across the world, many countries have enacted specific legislation aimed at protecting and stabilizing the language of indigenous speech communities. Endangered language_sentence_18

Recognizing that most of the world's endangered languages are unlikely to be revitalized, many linguists are also working on documenting the thousands of languages of the world about which little or nothing is known. Endangered language_sentence_19

Number of languages Endangered language_section_0

The total number of contemporary languages in the world is not known, and it is not well defined what constitutes a separate language as opposed to a dialect. Endangered language_sentence_20

Estimates vary depending on the extent and means of the research undertaken, and the definition of a distinct language and the current state of knowledge of remote and isolated language communities. Endangered language_sentence_21

The number of known languages varies over time as some of them become extinct and others are newly discovered. Endangered language_sentence_22

An accurate number of languages in the world was not yet known until the use of universal, systematic surveys in the later half of the twentieth century. Endangered language_sentence_23

The majority of linguists in the early twentieth century refrained from making estimates. Endangered language_sentence_24

Before then, estimates were frequently the product of guesswork and very low. Endangered language_sentence_25

One of the most active research agencies is SIL International, which maintains a database, Ethnologue, kept up to date by the contributions of linguists globally. Endangered language_sentence_26

Ethnologue's 2005 count of languages in its database, excluding duplicates in different countries, was 6,912, of which 32.8% (2,269) were in Asia, and 30.3% (2,092) in Africa. Endangered language_sentence_27

This contemporary tally must be regarded as a variable number within a range. Endangered language_sentence_28

Areas with a particularly large number of languages that are nearing extinction include: Eastern Siberia, Central Siberia, Northern Australia, Central America, and the Northwest Pacific Plateau. Endangered language_sentence_29

Other hotspots are Oklahoma and the Southern Cone of South America. Endangered language_sentence_30

Endangered sign languages Endangered language_section_1

Almost all of the study of language endangerment has been with spoken languages. Endangered language_sentence_31

A UNESCO study of endangered languages does not mention sign languages. Endangered language_sentence_32

However, some sign languages are also endangered, such as Alipur Village Sign Language (AVSL) of India, Adamorobe Sign Language of Ghana, Ban Khor Sign Language of Thailand, and Plains Indian Sign Language. Endangered language_sentence_33

Many sign languages are used by small communities; small changes in their environment (such as contact with a larger sign language or dispersal of the deaf community) can lead to the endangerment and loss of their traditional sign language. Endangered language_sentence_34

Methods are being developed to assess the vitality of sign languages. Endangered language_sentence_35

Defining and measuring endangerment Endangered language_section_2

While there is no definite threshold for identifying a language as endangered, UNESCO's 2003 document entitled Language vitality and endangerment outlines nine factors for determining language vitality: Endangered language_sentence_36

Endangered language_ordered_list_0

  1. Intergenerational language transmissionEndangered language_item_0_0
  2. Absolute number of speakersEndangered language_item_0_1
  3. Proportion of speakers existing within the total (global) populationEndangered language_item_0_2
  4. Language use within existing contexts and domainsEndangered language_item_0_3
  5. Response to language use in new domains and mediaEndangered language_item_0_4
  6. Availability of materials for language education and literacyEndangered language_item_0_5
  7. Government and institutional language policiesEndangered language_item_0_6
  8. Community attitudes toward their languageEndangered language_item_0_7
  9. Amount and quality of documentationEndangered language_item_0_8

Many languages, for example some in Indonesia, have tens of thousands of speakers but are endangered because children are no longer learning them, and speakers are shifting to using the national language (e.g. Indonesian) in place of local languages. Endangered language_sentence_37

In contrast, a language with only 500 speakers might be considered very much alive if it is the primary language of a community, and is the first (or only) spoken language of all children in that community. Endangered language_sentence_38

Asserting that "Language diversity is essential to the human heritage", UNESCO's Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages offers this definition of an endangered language: "... when its speakers cease to use it, use it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains, and cease to pass it on from one generation to the next. Endangered language_sentence_39

That is, there are no new speakers, adults or children." Endangered language_sentence_40

UNESCO operates with four levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct" (no living speakers), based on intergenerational transfer: "vulnerable" (not spoken by children outside the home), "definitely endangered" (children not speaking), "severely endangered" (only spoken by the oldest generations), and "critically endangered" (spoken by few members of the oldest generation, often semi-speakers). Endangered language_sentence_41

UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger categorises 2,473 languages by level of endangerment. Endangered language_sentence_42

More than 200 languages have become extinct around the world over the last three generations. Endangered language_sentence_43

Using an alternative scheme of classification, linguist Michael E. Krauss defines languages as "safe" if it is considered that children will probably be speaking them in 100 years; "endangered" if children will probably not be speaking them in 100 years (approximately 60–80% of languages fall into this category) and "moribund" if children are not speaking them now. Endangered language_sentence_44

Many scholars have devised techniques for determining whether languages are endangered. Endangered language_sentence_45

One of the earliest is GIDS (Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale) proposed by Joshua Fishman in 1991. Endangered language_sentence_46

In 2011 an entire issue of Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development was devoted to the study of ethnolinguistic vitality, Vol. 32.2, 2011, with several authors presenting their own tools for measuring language vitality. Endangered language_sentence_47

A number of other published works on measuring language vitality have been published, prepared by authors with varying situations and applications in mind. Endangered language_sentence_48

Causes Endangered language_section_3

According to the Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages, there are four main types of causes of language endangerment: Endangered language_sentence_49

Causes that put the populations that speak the languages in physical danger, such as: Endangered language_sentence_50

Endangered language_ordered_list_1

  1. War and genocide. Examples of this are the language(s) of the native population of Tasmania who died from diseases, and many extinct and endangered languages of the Americas where indigenous peoples have been subjected to genocidal violence. The Miskito language in Nicaragua and the Mayan languages of Guatemala have been affected by civil war.Endangered language_item_1_9
  2. Natural disasters, famine, disease. Any natural disaster severe enough to wipe out an entire population of native language speakers has the capability of endangering a language. An example of this is the languages spoken by the people of the Andaman Islands, who were seriously affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.Endangered language_item_1_10

Causes which prevent or discourage speakers from using a language, such as: Endangered language_sentence_51

Endangered language_ordered_list_2

  1. Cultural, political, or economic marginalization creates a strong incentive for individuals to abandon their language (on behalf of themselves and their children as well) in favor of another more prestigious language; one example of this is assimilatory education. This frequently happens when indigenous populations and ethnic groups who were once subjected to colonisation and/or earlier conquest, in order to achieve a higher social status, have a better chance to get employment and/or acceptance in a given social network only when they adopt the cultural and linguistic traits of other groups with enough power imbalance to culturally integrate them, through various means of ingroup and outgroup coercion (see below); examples of this kind of endangerment are the cases of Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Scots in Great Britain, Irish in Ireland and Great Britain, the Sardinian language in Italy, the Ryukyuan and Ainu languages in Japan, and the Chamorro language in Guam. This is also the most common cause of language endangerment. Ever since the Indian government adopted Hindi as the official language of the union government, Hindi has taken over many languages in India. Other forms of cultural imperialism include religion and technology; religious groups may hold the belief that the use of a certain language is immoral or require its followers to speak one language that is the approved language of the religion (like the Arabic language as the language of the Quran, with the pressure for many North African groups of Amazigh or Egyptian descent to Arabize). There are also cases where cultural hegemony may often arise not from an earlier history of domination or conquest, but simply from increasing contact with larger and more influential communities through better communications, compared with the relative isolation of past centuries.Endangered language_item_2_11
  2. Political repression. This has frequently happened when nation-states, as they work to promote a single national culture, limit the opportunities for using minority languages in the public sphere, schools, the media, and elsewhere, sometimes even prohibiting them altogether. Sometimes ethnic groups are forcibly resettled, or children may be removed to be schooled away from home, or otherwise have their chances of cultural and linguistic continuity disrupted. This has happened in the case of many Native American, Louisiana French and Australian languages, as well as European and Asian minority languages such as Breton, Occitan, or Alsatian in France and Kurdish in Turkey.Endangered language_item_2_12
  3. Urbanization. The movement of people into urban areas can force people to learn the language of their new environment. Eventually, later generations will lose the ability to speak their native language, leading to endangerment. Once urbanization takes place, new families who live there will be under pressure to speak the lingua franca of the city.Endangered language_item_2_13
  4. Intermarriage can also cause language endangerment, as there will always be pressure to speak one language to each other. This may lead to children only speaking the more common language spoken between the married couple.Endangered language_item_2_14

Often multiple of these causes act at the same time. Endangered language_sentence_52

Poverty, disease and disasters often affect minority groups disproportionately, for example causing the dispersal of speaker populations and decreased survival rates for those who stay behind. Endangered language_sentence_53

Marginalization and endangerment Endangered language_section_4

Main article: Minoritized language Endangered language_sentence_54

Among the causes of language endangerment cultural, political and economic marginalization accounts for most of the world's language endangerment. Endangered language_sentence_55

Scholars distinguish between several types of marginalization: Economic dominance negatively affects minority languages when poverty leads people to migrate towards the cities or to other countries, thus dispersing the speakers. Endangered language_sentence_56

Cultural dominance occurs when literature and higher education is only accessible in the majority language. Endangered language_sentence_57

Political dominance occurs when education and political activity is carried out exclusively in a majority language. Endangered language_sentence_58

Historically, in colonies, and elsewhere where speakers of different languages have come into contact, some languages have been considered superior to others: often one language has attained a dominant position in a country. Endangered language_sentence_59

Speakers of endangered languages may themselves come to associate their language with negative values such as poverty, illiteracy and social stigma, causing them to wish to adopt the dominant language which is associated with social and economical progress and modernity. Endangered language_sentence_60

Immigrants moving into an area may lead to the endangerment of the autochthonous language. Endangered language_sentence_61

Effects Endangered language_section_5

Language endangerment affects both the languages themselves and the people that speak them. Endangered language_sentence_62

Also, this effect the essence of a culture. Endangered language_sentence_63

Effects on communities Endangered language_section_6

As communities lose their language they often also lose parts of their cultural traditions which are tied to that language, such as songs, myths, poetry, local remedies, ecological and geological knowledge and language behaviors that are not easily translated. Endangered language_sentence_64

Furthermore, the social structure of one's community is often reflected through speech and language behavior. Endangered language_sentence_65

This pattern is even more prominent in dialects. Endangered language_sentence_66

This may in turn affect the sense of identity of the individual and the community as a whole, producing a weakened social cohesion as their values and traditions are replaced with new ones. Endangered language_sentence_67

This is sometimes characterized as anomie. Endangered language_sentence_68

Losing a language may also have political consequences as some countries confer different political statuses or privileges on minority ethnic groups, often defining ethnicity in terms of language. Endangered language_sentence_69

That means that communities that lose their language may also lose political legitimacy as a community with special collective rights. Endangered language_sentence_70

Language can also be considered as scientific knowledge in topics such as medicine, philosophy, botany, and many more. Endangered language_sentence_71

It reflects a communities practices when dealing with the environment and each other. Endangered language_sentence_72

When a language is lost, this knowledge is lost as well. Endangered language_sentence_73

In contrast, language revitalization is correlated with better health outcomes in indigenous communities. Endangered language_sentence_74

Effects on languages Endangered language_section_7

During language loss—sometimes referred to as obsolescence in the linguistic literature—the language that is being lost generally undergoes changes as speakers make their language more similar to the language that they are shifting to. Endangered language_sentence_75

For example, gradually losing grammatical or phonological complexities that are not found in the dominant language. Endangered language_sentence_76

Ethical considerations and attitudes Endangered language_section_8

Generally the accelerated pace of language endangerment is considered to be a problem by linguists and by the speakers. Endangered language_sentence_77

However, some linguists, such as the phonetician Peter Ladefoged, have argued that language death is a natural part of the process of human cultural development, and that languages die because communities stop speaking them for their own reasons. Endangered language_sentence_78

Ladefoged argued that linguists should simply document and describe languages scientifically, but not seek to interfere with the processes of language loss. Endangered language_sentence_79

A similar view has been argued at length by linguist Salikoko Mufwene, who sees the cycles of language death and emergence of new languages through creolization as a continuous ongoing process. Endangered language_sentence_80

A majority of linguists do consider that language loss is an ethical problem, as they consider that most communities would prefer to maintain their languages if given a real choice. Endangered language_sentence_81

They also consider it a scientific problem, because language loss on the scale currently taking place will mean that future linguists will only have access to a fraction of the world's linguistic diversity, therefore their picture of what human language is—and can be—will be limited. Endangered language_sentence_82

Some linguists consider linguistic diversity to be analogous to biological diversity, and compare language endangerment to wildlife endangerment. Endangered language_sentence_83

Response Endangered language_section_9

Linguists, members of endangered language communities, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations such as UNESCO and the European Union are actively working to save and stabilize endangered languages. Endangered language_sentence_84

Once a language is determined to be endangered, there are three steps that can be taken in order to stabilize or rescue the language. Endangered language_sentence_85

The first is language documentation, the second is language revitalization and the third is language maintenance. Endangered language_sentence_86

Language documentation is the documentation in writing and audio-visual recording of grammar, vocabulary, and oral traditions (e.g. stories, songs, religious texts) of endangered languages. Endangered language_sentence_87

It entails producing descriptive grammars, collections of texts and dictionaries of the languages, and it requires the establishment of a secure archive where the material can be stored once it is produced so that it can be accessed by future generations of speakers or scientists. Endangered language_sentence_88

Language revitalization is the process by which a language community through political, community, and educational means attempts to increase the number of active speakers of the endangered language. Endangered language_sentence_89

This process is also sometimes referred to as language revival or reversing language shift. Endangered language_sentence_90

For case studies of this process, see Anderson (2014). Endangered language_sentence_91

Applied linguistics and education are helpful in revitalizing endangered languages. Endangered language_sentence_92

Vocabulary and courses are available online for a number of endangered languages. Endangered language_sentence_93

Language maintenance refers to the support given to languages that need for their survival to be protected from outsiders who can ultimately affect the number of speakers of a language. Endangered language_sentence_94

UNESCO's strides towards preventing language extinction involves promoting and supporting the language in aspects such as education, culture, communication and information, and science. Endangered language_sentence_95

Another option is "post-vernacular maintenance": the teaching of some words and concepts of the lost language, rather than revival proper. Endangered language_sentence_96

As of June 2012 the United States has a "J-1 specialist visa, which allows indigenous language experts who do not have academic training to enter the U.S. as experts aiming to share their knowledge and expand their skills". Endangered language_sentence_97

See also Endangered language_section_10

Endangered language_unordered_list_3


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered language.