Extinct and Endangered Languages Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1038 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Communication - Language

Threatened Languages

The, major languages of the world are spoken by millions of people, but there're languages with far fewer speakers, languages that may go extinct within the next few years as the number of speakers dwindle and as other forces change the language until it is unrecognizable. The process of the extinction of language has been ongoing for centuries, and many languages once spoken widely in a given area are no longer understood by anyone today. A recent report suggests that more than half the languages now in use could disappear by the end of this century.

It is estimated that there have been more than 130,000 languages over the last 100,000 years. The peak of diversity was reached 10,000-year ago when there were 12,000 languages in use. There are about 6,700 languages in use today, and more than half of these languages are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. These are the most endangered languages, and many are found in the Americas and in Australia, where 337 languages are spoken only by a few elderly people. These languages probably will not last beyond 2050 (Furniss, 2007, p. 53).

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In the Americas, numerous Native American languages are endangered today, and one of the major ways these languages die out is that the last speaker dies and takes the knowledge with him. An obituary in 1996 noted the death of the last speaker of Catawba, his ancestral tongue. He had been unable to find anyone interested in learning it when he was alive. A reporter found Sangama, the last living speaker of Chamicuro, one of the 500 languages that once were common in the Peruvian Amazon:

Term Paper on Extinct and Endangered Languages Assignment

According to linguists who track such things, at least half of the world's 6,000 languages will probably die out in the next century. Modern communications, migration and population growth have brought about a loss in cultural diversity that parallels the loss in biological diversity as wilderness areas have been cleared. Missionaries have also played a major role. In the school she attended as a child, Sangama remembers, missionaries used to make her kneel on corn if she spoke Chamicuro (Taylor, 2000, 1276).

Most of the languages that disappear are spoken languages only, so there is also no written record to be examined. Linguists note that only about five percent of existing languages can be considered safe, and these are languages that are spoken by at least a million people and that also have state backing. Hundreds of other languages are spoken only by a few elderly speakers, and these are likely to become extinct (Taylor, 2000, 1276).

Threatened languages can be found all over the world. Mayton (2006) notes the threat to Coptic, a language long thought virtually extinct and today existing only in the liturgical language of the Coptic Church in Egypt:

Coptic is a combination of the ancient Egyptian languages Demotic, Hieroglyphic and Hieratic. It was the language used by the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt following the spread of Greek culture throughout much of the Near East. In essence, it is the language of the ancient Egyptians themselves (Mayton, 2006, p.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Extinct and Endangered Languages.  (2007, December 9).  Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/extinct-endangered-languages/449439

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"Extinct and Endangered Languages."  9 December 2007.  Web.  29 November 2020. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/extinct-endangered-languages/449439>.

Chicago Style

"Extinct and Endangered Languages."  Essaytown.com.  December 9, 2007.  Accessed November 29, 2020.