endangered languages (fwd)

Jane Freeland jane at freelanj.demon.co.uk
Thu Feb 21 17:47:17 UTC 2002

Just the antidote for Regna's (and our) positions (???!!!).

----- Original Message -----
From: Harold F. Schiffman <haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
To: <lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 6:37 PM
Subject: endangered languages (fwd)

> New York Times, February 20, 2002
> UNESCO: 3, 000 Languages Could Die Off
> PARIS (AP) -- About half of the world's 6,000 languages are under threat
> of disappearing under pressure from more dominant tongues or repressive
> government policies, a new study says.
> >From France and Russia to the Americas and Australia, minority languages
> and the heritage that goes along with them are at risk of dying out,
> according to a UNESCO study to be released Thursday.
> ``Today, at least 3,000 tongues are endangered, seriously endangered or
> dying in many parts of the world,'' said a statement by the Paris-based
> United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
> ``With the death and disappearance of ... a language, an irreplaceable
> unit in our knowledge and understanding of human thought and world-view is
> lost forever.''
> The 90-page study, ``Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of
> Disappearing,'' said the Americas and Australia had the worst record. In
> Australia, hundreds of Aboriginal languages are now extinct as a result of
> harsh assimilation policies in place until the 1970s.
> ``In the United States, less than 150 Indian languages have survived out
> of several hundreds that were spoken before the arrival of the
> Europeans,'' the study said, adding that discrimination lessened in the
> 1970s but English-only policies increased with a wave of conservatism in
> the 1980s.
> The study identifies ``crisis areas'' such as Taiwan, where more than half
> of the 23 local languages ``are yielding to the pressures of Chinese,''
> and New Caledonia, where French has replaced regional tongues.
> It also lists about 50 languages at risk in Europe, including 14 languages
> in France and several of the Saami or Lappish tongues spoken in
> Scandinavia and northern Russia.
> According to the study, a native language can disappear when its speakers
> relocate and are required to speak the dominant tongue to get a job and
> function in the new society, or because they confront a more aggressive or
> economically stronger culture.
> In Asia, the study says, the situation for minority languages ``is
> uncertain in many parts of China'' due to pressure from authorities.
> Linguistic diversity, however, is thriving in the Pacific region -- which
> includes Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea -- which
> accounts for more than 2,000 living languages, or a third of the world
> total.
> Widespread bilingual or multilingual government policies on the Indian
> subcontinent have helped keep local languages alive there, and some
> tongues have even been resurrected through intensive revival campaigns --
> including Cornish in southern England and the Ainu language in Japan, the
> study said.
> In Africa, roughly 550 of the 1,400 local languages are on the decline,
> with 250 of those under immediate threat.

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