Monday, March 9, 2009

Disappearing languages

Do you know anyone who speaks Livonian? Probably not, as the only remaining speaker lives in Latvia. Livonian is one of 2,500 languages that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, says are in danger of becoming extinct or have recently disappeared. To put this figure into perspective, you should know that there are a total of 6,000 world languages.

A UNESCO atlas published in February gives the latest information about the general status of languages. It states that more that 200 languages have recently become extinct. India, the United States, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil are the countries with greater linguistic diversity, but with the highest number of endangered languages. Papua New Guinea, with more than 800 languages, has the greatest linguistic diversity in the world. The country has comparatively a far fewer languages currently endangered compared to those of other nations.

Which languages will you help keep alive?

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