Dying languages


It’s well known that many of the world’s languages are endangered, but new research reveals just how many and why. Published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a study by researcher­s at the Australian National University found that nearly a fifth of all languages are at risk of disappeari­ng by 2100. ‘We found that without immediate interventi­on, language loss could triple in the next 40 years. And by the end of this century, 1,500 languages could cease to be spoken,’ said study co-author Lindell Bromham. Analysing more than 6,500 languages, the researcher­s identified 51 factors that put endangered languages at risk, with some surprising results. While contact with other languages wasn’t a cause for language erosion (in fact, many communitie­s become multilingu­al when they are in close proximity to other languages), living in areas with a high road density was an important indicator. This is likely due to the fact that roads increase the level of commuting between rural areas and larger towns, with commerce and centralise­d government, and the languages associated with them, trickling in. Higher levels of schooling were also a risk factor, suggesting a need for more school curricula that support bilingual education.

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