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3,000 Languages May Be Extinct Within 100 Years

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The Legacy Of Extinct Languages

When we think of language today, much of the focus is on learning more than one. Take English for example: a language used widely around the word. What might not know, however, is that English, a relatively new language, is actually comprised of terminology, dialect and speech from thousands of other cultures, some of which are now extinct—such as Latin. Among the 196 countries around the globe, there are more than 6,700 languages—up to half of which are expected to fizzle out by the end of the 21st century. In fact, speech researchers estimate that since the European colonization of North America, more than 115 languages have become extinct, 20 of which disappearing within the 20th century. Remnants of some of the most relevant languages of their time, like Middle English, can still be seen today in ancient artifacts such as original prints of Chaucer's Robin Hood between 1200 and 1450 A.D. Yet when it comes to the expiration date for languages, not all life cycles are the same. "Extinct" languages die because there are no longer any native or secondary speakers keeping the vernacular alive, whereas a "dead" language may no longer be used in social or cultural contexts, but used exclusively for scientific and academic purposes.

So how to languages start, and what makes them burn out? Could prominent languages like English, French, German and Spanish as we know it ever expire? Learn more about the amazing history and complicated context of how older languages retire—and make comebacks.

About this Video

from geobeats

3,000 Languages May Be Extinct Within 100 Years - as part of the news series by GeoBeats. More than 6 thousand different languages are spoken in the world. But according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, about half of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct. There are many endangered languages in remote and urban locations where the younger population doesn't understand the importance of preserving the linguistic heritage of their ancestors or grandparents. The Linguistic Society of America estimates that "around a quarter of the world's languages have fewer than a thousand remaining speakers" and they agree with the estimate that up to three thousand endangered languages could be lost in the next hundred years, if current trends continue. But there are efforts being made by Rosetta-Stone and others to create a computer model for teaching some of these endangered languages, which may appeal to a younger generation immersed in technology. Their Endangered Languages Program model has been used for six endangered languages spoken by Native American tribes in the United States and Canada. Why do you think keeping endangered languages alive is important?

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