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raise awareness and promote minority languages


What is an Endangered Language?

An endangered language is a language headed for extinction. It is a language without monolingual speakers, people who speak only that language. It is a language spoken by a minority of people in the nation and for that reason is held in low esteem, causing its speakers to avoid using it or passing it on to their children. 20 years ago, all of the children in the Yupik community in Alaska spoke Yupik; now the youngest speakers are in their 20's. Mohawk and Onondaga are still spoken in upstate New York but only by older adults. Many languages today have only one remaining speaker, an older person who will take that language with him or her to the grave.

How Many Languages are Threatened Today?

No one knows exactly how many languages exist in the world today but best estimates place the figure around 6800. Roughly 1,000 are spoken in the Americas (15%), 2,400 in Africa (35%), 200 in Europe (3%), 2,000 in Asia (28%) and, perhaps, 1,200 in the Pacific (19%). Keep in mind that only about a quarter of the languages and few dialects have writing systems and not all languages have even been "discovered" by Western linguistics. Most linguists, however, agree that half of the world's languages are endangered; many fear that 90% will disappear by the end of this century. The important points to keep in mind are these: (1) large numbers of languages, probably the majority, are in danger of extinction and (2) many more have not yet been described in grammars and dictionaries.

1. Preserving these languages preserves the culture of these countries

2. the poetry and rhythm of the language dies with it.