Endangered languages

language that is at risk of falling out of use

Endangered languages is the term commonly used for the oral/aural languages (spoken) or written Languages which are used means a of communication by a very small group, and are in danger of disappearing. The study of language is commonly called Linguistics.

Filip Visnjic (1767-1834), Serbian blind guslar. Narrative singers passed on national poems in this way for centuries, until the poems were recorded in writing


  • Languages are always changing but in many cases the life of a language ends. In many areas of the world, economic, military, social and other pressures are causing communities to stop speaking their traditional languages, and turn to other, typically more dominant, languages. This can be a social, cultural and scientific disaster because languages express the unique knowledge, history and worldview of their communities; and each language is a specially evolved variation of the human capacity for communication.
  • The Foundation for Endangered Languages supports, enables and assists the documentation, protection and promotion of endangered languages.
  • The Gaelic-speaking East Sutherland fisherfolk have in one sense already been proven 'wrong', in that some of the youngest members of their own kin circles have begun to berate them for choosing not to transmit the ancestral language and so allowing it to die.

Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response


Lenore A. Grenoble, Lindsay J. Whaley Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response

  • The staying power of endangered languages must be intimately tied to a thousand intimate or small-scale network processes, processes too gratifying and rewarding to surrender even if they do not quite amount to the pursuit of higher reaches of power and modernity.
  • ...for endangered languages must take into account the potential of economic issues to outweigh all others combined, although this a potential, not an absolute: ranking economic concerns higher than other variables is not tantamount to assigning economic factors complete supremacy.
The majority of endangered languages come from oral culture, where converting the language to a written form poses certain consequences for the continued use of these languages.
  • The majority of endangered languages come from oral culture, where converting the language to a written form poses certain consequences for the continued use of these languages.

Are dying languages worth saving


British Procrastinating Corporation (BBC) Are dying languages worth saving?

  • About 6,000 different languages are spoken around the world. But the Foundation for Endangered Languages estimates that between 500 and 1,000 of those are spoken by only a handful of people. And every year the world loses around 25 mother tongues. That equates to losing 250 languages over a decade - a sad prospect for some.
  • And when languages are lost most of the knowledge that went with them gets lost. People do care about identity as they want to be different. Nowadays we want access to everything but we don't want to be thought of as no more than people on the other side of the world.
  • In one sense you could call it a cultural loss. But that makes no sense because cultural forms are lost all the time. To say every cultural form should exist forever is ridiculous. And when governments try to prop languages up, it shows a desire to cling to the past rather than move forwards.
    • Kenan Malik on the aspect of loss to the culture due to loss of a language.
  • To have a public policy that a certain culture or language should be preserved shows a fundamental misunderstanding. I don't see why it's in the public good to preserve Manx or Cornish or any other language for that matter. In the end, whether or not a language is viable is very simple. If a language is one that people don't participate in, it's not a language anymore.
    • Kenan Malik on the issue of policy for preserving languages.
  • Language is not a plant that rises and falls, lives and decays. It's a tool that's perfectly adapted by the people using it. Get on with living and talking.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: