ELL: Africa: Local languages under threat (IRIN News)
sb at UNAGI.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Thu Feb 21 15:46:10 UTC 2002
------- Forwarded Message
From: IRIN <IRIN at irinnews.org>
To: Steven Bird <sb at ldc.upenn.edu>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 13:02:35 GMT
Subject: AFRICA: Local languages under threat
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
AFRICA: Local languages under threat
ADDIS ABABA, 21 February (IRIN) - Almost half the languages spoken in the
world are under threat, with Africa one of the hardest-hit continents,
according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
Africa - linguistically the least known continent - is one of most
affected, where 250 languages could be lost for ever. And of the 1,400
languages - used by the continent's 700 million-strong population - at
least 500 are on the decline.
According to UNESCO, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan face the
most serious problems, and have been designated "crisis areas". "They are
crisis areas which have the most moribund or seriously endangered tongues,"
a spokesman for UNESCO said in a statement released in the Ethiopian
capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday.
UNESCO argues that some African countries encourage major languages like
Swahili, or even colonial languages like French and English, which then
threaten local tongues. A community's language is defined by experts to be
endangered when at least 30 percent of its children no longer speak it.
Often economic and social factors can threaten local languages as people
leave their communities to look for work. Their environments can also be
threatened, so villagers and their language are dispersed. Linguists argue
that a native language helps preserve the culture of communities, as well
as providing the building blocks of life.
"At least 3,000 tongues are endangered, seriously endangered or dying in
many parts of the world," the UNESCO spokesman stressed. "About half of the
6,000 or so languages spoken in the world are under threat. Over the past
three centuries, languages have died out and disappeared at a dramatic and
steadily increasing pace, especially in the Americas and Australia."
"But an endangered, moribund or even extinct language can be saved through
a determined language policy," he added. "Sometimes languages that have
actually died out have been 'raised from the dead', such as Cornish, in
England, which became extinct in 1777, but has been revived in recent
years, with nearly 1,000 people now speaking it as a second language."
UNESCO has released an atlas highlighting the "World's Languages in Danger
of Disappearing". The maps have been launched to coincide with
International Mother Language Day - marked on 21 February.
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN
humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views
of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or
to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin at ocha.unon.org or Web:
http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post
this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial
sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2002
------- End of Forwarded Message
Endangered-Languages-L Forum: endangered-languages-l at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
Web pages http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/lists/endangered-languages-l/
Subscribe/unsubscribe and other commands: majordomo at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
More information about the Endangered-languages-l