RE: World Language Losses at a Glance

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue Jun 19 2001 - 13:24:57 BST

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    Subject: RE: World Language Losses at a Glance
    Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 13:24:57 +0100
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    Interesting stuff.

    I've always been bemused by the concern over the loss of languages. I'm not
    sure there's really anything to lament in the loss of languages, after all
    fewer languages means more people speaking the same languages, which may (I
    won't get ahead of myself) facilitate better communication between peoples.

    Of course, the real lament isn't for the languages, so much as for the
    peoples that speak them. I saw a programme on TV recently about the natives
    of the Andaman (spelling?) islands, in the Indian Ocean. These are pygmy
    people, but who are very like Africans to look at, rather the Indian/Asian
    region on the mainland a few hundred miles away. They have very distinct
    languages, and preliminary genetic tests suggest they may be extremely
    important in terms of human history. The tragedy is, of course, that their
    islands are increasingly being taken over by the Indians, and there are only
    a few hundred or so left.


    > ----------
    > From: Dave Gross
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 10:14 pm
    > To:
    > Subject: World Language Losses at a Glance
    > This piece has been snipped from an AP sidebar:
    > Snapshots of language losses worldwide
    > --North America: Eighty percent of the 260 native languages still spoken
    > in
    > the United States and Canada aren't being learned by children, one reason
    > for language loss. Eyak, native to the coast of Alaska's Prince William
    > Sound, has one remaining speaker.
    > --South America: Hundreds of languages died as a result of the Spanish
    > conquest. About 80 percent of the continent's remaining 640 languages are
    > spoken by fewer than 10,000 people each; 27 face extinction. Many
    > languages
    > from the Amazon region have fewer than 500 speakers, including Arikapu,
    > which has six.
    > --Africa: In the birthplace of nearly one-third of the world's languages,
    > 54 are believed dead, with another 116 nearing extinction.
    > --Asia: More than half of Asia's native languages have fewer than 10,000
    > speakers each, although 3 billion people, or half the world's population,
    > live on the continent.
    > --Australia: About 90 percent of its 250 aboriginal languages face
    > extinction.
    > --Europe: Nearly 90 percent of Russians speak Russian, the language
    > enforced during the Soviet era. Consequently, most of the country's 100
    > other native languages, nearly all of them Siberian tongues, are near
    > extinction, including Udihe.
    > ------
    > Source: Worldwatch Institute.
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    > see:

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