Posts Tagged ‘language endangerment’

A language dies every how many days?

11 July 2012

In the field of language endangerment, a common estimate is that half of the languages living today will fall silent in this century (or over the next 100 years).

The Ethnologue counts 6,909 languages living today, and 7,000 is also a common estimate of the number of languages currently spoken.

Yet a third estimate is that a language falls silent every 14 days. But 100 years multiplied by 365 days per year and divided by 14 results in 2,607 languages.

So if 3,500 languages will die over the next 100 years, how many days is that on average? Dividing 3,500 languages by 100 years yields 35 languages per year, and dividing 365 (days/year) by 35 languages yields 10.43 days.

Given the rapid increase in efforts to stabilize and revitalize languages, there is hope that neither the 14-day or 10.43-day estimate will come true, but even so, both are averages and languages will not die in an even manner. Rather, language silence will occur in uneven clumps.

Admittedly, though, citing one language as dying every 14 days makes for good press.


Moken way of life in danger

12 May 2012

After the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Ocean, the media reported how when the Moken saw the sea go out, they warned others that a tsunami was coming and ran for the hills.

The Moken are a nomadic sea people who inhabit the Andaman Sea area.

Their traditional way of life may be coming to an end, however. In addition to the destruction of their boats by the 2004 tsunami, the Moken face diminishing marine resources and a changing world that is rapidly eroding their culture. The Moken language (mwt) is also in great danger of being silenced.

Read “Time running out for Moken way of life” for more information about the Moken people.