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About Mother Language

Information on Lost Languages

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Around the world there are an estimated 7,100 languages that are being spoken. It has been observed, that the diversity of languages is decreasing and that this trend will continue during the next years and decades, a loss of valuable heritage and information for our civilization.

According to the US based organization Ethnologue, who are holding a global database of languages, about 21% of all languages are considered as "threatened". An additional 915 languages are currently considered "dying", which means that the young generations are no longer able to speak these languages fluently. The database dates back until 1950, and since then 373 languages haven been extinct [Nov. 2014], which means that not a single person has retained a sense of ethnic identity with these languages.

What is language loss?

The loss of a language can happen on two different levels. Language or parts of the language can become forgotton by the speakers when the linguistic environment is changing, per example through immigration into a different country. Language can also be forgotton when its use becomes less relevant, per example through globalisation of language.

A language loss results in a loss of information, e.g. information about the native environment and local historic events. Expressions, e.g. for humour, love and life may differ, especially for languages from societies outside of the modern industrialized world. When a language gets lost, a cultural heritage gets lost with it.

The problem of losing lingual diversity is complex, because language and culture evolves and is amoung others shaped by progress, inventions, changes in behaviour, and the simplification of communication.

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