Scientists have found that economic success is a major factor behind language extinction. A recent study revealed that minority languages, even those that exist in developed parts of the world such as Australia, Europe, and North America, are now under threat. The research study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which is one of two scientific journals published by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom.
As a result of the research findings, scientists are urging that the efforts for the protection of minority languages should be increased. The lead author of the research was Tatsuya Amano at the University of Cambridge. The scientist said that the situation is very serious as world languages are being lost rapidly. He also added that the researchers involved conducted the study because they wanted to know the global distribution of accelerated extinction and what the main drivers of the extinction are.
The voices are vanishing
Dr. Amano, who usually studies the rates of extinction in animals, said that almost 25% of languages across the globe are being threatened. According to the study’s conclusions, the speakers of minority languages are pressured to adopt more dominant languages because the only other choice is to become increasingly marginalized, politically and economically speaking. As the scientists discovered, the more successful a country is economically, the faster most of its languages are lost.
Some languages at risk
The scientists revealed that in North America, various Alaskan languages are at risk, including Upper Tanana, which currently has fewer than 25 speakers. In France, Auvergnat is quickly fading, and the situation is the same with Scandinavia’s Ume Sami. Dr. Amano explained that as national economies develop, a single language tends to dominate, and this is typically the one used by a country’s educational and political systems. The Northern Hemisphere is not the only place where minority languages are threatened. For example, the Bahing language in Nepal is now only spoken by an estimated 8 people.
Concerted efforts are being undertaken to protect the Welsh language in the UK, and according to Dr. Amano, these programs are a great example of a successful protection strategy. Daniel Kaufman, the executive director of the Endangered Language Alliance, has pointed out that, in terms of language conservation, economic, political, and social factors now overshadow environmental factors. Previously, linguistic diversity was shaped by the environment, but now economic and political realities predominate.