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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Rise of Endangered Languages

As of 2023, about half of the world’s languages are endangered of becoming extinct by the end of the century. A study done by the University College of London estimates that of the seven thousand spoken languages across the world, about half are considered endangered. 

Between 1950 and 2021, around 230 documented languages had become extinct with 1,500 languages being considered at high risk of being lost within the next century. 

Across the globe, researchers are fighting the battle of keeping and preserving linguistic diversity, which is vital not only to cultural diversity and heritage, but to piecing together human history as a whole. 

The loss of native speakers of a language, also known as “Linguicide,” has been occurring rapidly on a global scale at an alarming rate for many centuries. 

Due to the majority of languages that are considered endangered belong to either marginalized, persecuted, or Indigenous communities, many of these languages are battling numerous threats that face the possibility of becoming extinct. 

Languages, such as the Babanki language in Cameroon Africa or the Nalik Language on the island in Papua New Guinea, are just a few of thousands of languages that experts and researchers predict will be extinct in the next 90 years. 

The history of linguistic loss has been a common occurrence in colonized or persecuted regions and communities of the world. Indigenous tribes and peoples across the Americas have had a multitude of different languages, with just over 2,000 different languages and dialects being spoken prior to Spanish contact. 

However, the linguistic diversity amongst the Americas would decrease from 1492 and onward with Indigenous communities facing a multitude of factors, including disease, persecution and forced assimilation. 

Due to centuries being displaced due to European colonization has made hundreds of Indigenous languages and cultures erased from history. 

Areas of lands in the Americas that were considered sacred, housing thriving unique cultures and languages belonging to Indigenous communities, now are replaced with freeways that transport thousands everyday. 

While many communities whose languages are at risk of despairing within the next century have largely been the result of persecution, colonization, and genocide, these communities are now facing a new threat: Climate Change. 

Regions such as the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, where over 110 different languages and dialects are spoken, is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world due to climate change causing the island’s sea level to rise. 

These rising sea levels, which decimate regions that house Indigenous villages and communities, affects these communities by leading to many people being displaced into regions where they must learn and teach their children the prominent language of a region. 

Efforts to combat Linguicide have been made by several organizations and communities that aim to teach future generations their native languages. 

Since the mid-twentieth century, numerous schools and organizations in Hawaii have been put in place that immerse children in both their native languages and English. The decline of native Hawaiian languages has been the result of the effects of American colonization on the island, with about only 2,000 native Hawaiian speakers accounted for in 1970, but as of 2022, there are more than 18,700 native Hawaiian speakers. 

In 2000 the UNESCO, which had been concerned with the rising rate of endangered languages, declared that February 21 was International Mother Language Day that hopes to not only bring awareness of the growing amount of endangered languages and linguistic diversity, but also aims to encourage younger generations to speak their mother languages. 

Language is more than just a way of communication, but carries local knowledge and culture and shows the vast diversity of the world when it comes to how we connect and interact with others through the way we speak.

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