The Quest to Save Endangered Languages

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  12.17.09 | 11:03 AM ET

Great story in the Independent about efforts to preserve the “linguistic diversity stored in tiny pockets of speakers around the world.” Mark Turin is the point man.

The University of Cambridge academic is leading a project that aims to pull thousands of languages back from the brink of extinction by recording and archiving words, poems, chants - anything that can be committed to tape - in a bid to halt their destruction. Languages the majority of us will never know anything about.

Of the world’s 6,500 living languages, around half are expected to die out by the end of this century, according to Unesco. Just 11 are spoken by more than half the earth’s population, so it is little wonder that those used by only a few are being left behind as we become a more homogenous, global society.

3 Comments for The Quest to Save Endangered Languages

Nowooski 12.17.09 | 4:51 PM ET

I’ve never quite understood the urge to save dying languages. After all, every time a language disappears that means there is one fewer barrier to communication between us. Is making it easier for people to communicate with each other a big tragedy?

Marsha 12.17.09 | 10:10 PM ET

Hummmm…...I wonder if you would have the same point of view if English was one of those dying languages?

Scott 01.08.10 | 9:48 AM ET

According to McWorther, the number is closer to 90%. I admire the idea of recording them, but that won’t stop their disappearance and they will still be nothing but a footnote on the story of the world (which will, of course, be written in English…).

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