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The Future of Languages Is Bleak: Most Are Doomed to Extinction

by Morgane Croissant May 20, 2015


While 78 percent of people speak the 85 most dominant languages in the world, only 12 percent speak the “weakest” 3,500 and, according to linguist and philosopher John McWhorter, it would only take one century for the “weakest” languages, i.e. those spoken by a small, isolated population and those without a writing system, to be bullied into extinction by the “strongest”.

The main reason for such a loss is economic growth. According to the BBC, “researchers found that the more successful a country was economically, the more rapidly its languages were being lost.” In North America, this simply means that if you want to be in the loop, assimilated, and successful, there’s no need for you to speak, for example, Navajo, Yiddish, or Cherokee, you should really stick to English. Once this “realization” has taken place, parents stop talking to their children in their ancestral languages and soon enough, all those who spoke them are gone.

But, is that so bad? Wouldn’t we understand each other better if we all spoke the same few languages? Wouldn’t it create less confusion, less conflict, more understanding?

In theory, yes. In reality, language is much more than communication. Language is often the vehicle for traditions, history, and cultural identity. When a language disappears, the information about the place where it is spoken and the people who speak it disappears too and the world becomes a little bit more homogeneous and a little bit less interesting.

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