And next in the continuous line of extinctions…thousands of the world’s languages.

September 19, 2007 at 7:57 am (frightening things) ()

A new study shows that thousands of languages around the world are at risk of disappearing completely from peoples’ memory (and have been for quite some time, of course). It’s estimated that we’ve lost half of the world’s languages already just in the past 500 years, and are scheduled to lose about 7,000 more by the end of this century.

“Languages are undergoing a global extinction crisis that greatly exceeds the pace of species extinction,” said David Harrison, a linguistics professor at Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College.

“Most of what we know about species and ecosystems is not written down anywhere, it’s only in people’s heads,” he said.

“We are seeing in front of our eyes the erosion of the human knowledge base.”

And then there’s this striking little tidbit:

More than 500 languages may be spoken by fewer than ten people.

Whoa.

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2 Comments

  1. ballgame said,

    Speaking of things that might soon be extinct (which is my feeble segue to this OT comment that I don’t know where else to put), I thought you might enjoy this story about a wild polar bear playing with huskies (found via dooce).

  2. Emily said,

    Aw, thanks, I did enjoy it.

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