Does language extinction matter?
February 16, 2007
At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Michael Krauss argued it does.
"I claim that it is catastrophic for the future of mankind," Krauss said in a statement. "It should be as scary as losing 90 percent of the biological species."
Krauss said that there are ethical and practical reasons why language diversity matters.
Amazon rainforest shaman
"That is somehow interdependent such that we lose sections of it at the same peril that we lose sections of the biosphere," Krauss said. "Every time we lose (a language), we lose that much also of our adaptability and our diversity that gives us our strength and our ability to survive."
According to figures from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the most widely spoken language on earth is Mandarin which is used as a first language by nearly a billion people. Second on the list is English with around 358 million, followed by Spanish.
UNESCO estimates that over 50% of the world's 6900 languages are endangered and that one language disappears on average every two weeks. It notes that 96% of the world's 6000 languages are spoken by 4% of the world's population and 90% of the world's languages are not represented on the Internet.
This article is based on a news release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.