WHICH LANGUAGES ARE ENDANGERED?
abdul at October 1st, 2015
More than 200 languages have become extinct around the world over the last three generations (http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/). For example, in the Atlas, the entry for Uganda lists 6 languages, of which 3 are now considered extinct, namely Napore, Nyang’i and Singa.
LEVELS OF ENDANGERMENT
UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger categorises 2,500 languages in five levels of endangerment:
critically endangered and
It is important to remember that even when a language becomes extinct, some people may in fact ‘remember’ words or phrases or indeed people speaking in the language when they were young. For example, the following video shows that the Wichita language, spoken in the U.S.A. by about 10 speakers, does have people who remember parts of the language but who don’t speak it: (www.colorado.edu/linguistics/faculty/rood-old/Witchita/movies/Last_Witchita_W.mov)
Here you may listen to two sentences in Wichita spoken by one of the last speakers: http://www.mpi.nl/DOBES/projects/wichita/data
UNESCO further distinguishes four levels of endangerment in languages, based on intergenerational transfer:
Vulnerable: Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g. the home). Example: Ingush (spoken in the North Caucasus). Click this link to hear a song in Ingush: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5h5aaU1V4A
Definitely endangered: Children no longer learn the language as the mother tongue in the home. Example: Pech (spoken in Honduras). Click here to see a list of 20 basic words in Pech: http://www.native-languages.org/pech_words.htm
Severely endangered: Language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves. Example: Kaska (spoken in British Columbia, Canada). Click here to access a Kaska language website: http://kaska.arts.ubc.ca/
Critically endangered: The youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently. Example: Achumawi (spoken in California, USA). Click here to hear a folk tale in Achumawi:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jvth6S-qVnM
For the full list of languages which UNESCO considers endangered, see https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdEFZOG13WXFLSU9rNkt6cWsxRWlaTUE&hl=en#gid=1