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Disappearing languages, vanishing voices

  • Published
    8th Sep, 2023

Context:

The increasing prevalence of English as a language globally has led to the extinction of regional and native languages. Any loss of language is not only a loss of linguistic diversity but also a loss in terms of the associated cultural variations, opinions, views, and knowledge.

Importance of Language Diversity

  • Unifying Force of English: English has historically connected diverse linguistic communities in India since British rule, but poses challenges in remote areas.
  • The Quest for a Universal Language: Consideration arises on why a common global language is not adopted for simpler and stronger global communication.
  • Biblical Tale of Tower of Babel: The narrative illustrates the power of a shared language. Language serves as a vital tool for transferring information and emotions.

Threat to Linguistic Diversity

  • Projected Language Extinction: A mathematical model predicts that 40% of languages (with less than 35,000 speakers) may vanish within a century, shrinking diversity.
  • Dominance of Major Languages: Half of the world's population primarily speaks just 10 languages. This trend endangers linguistic diversity worldwide.
  • Impact of Migration: Migration prompts shifts towards dominant languages, eroding mother tongues over generations. Hindi vs. English dynamics in India reflect this phenomenon.

Preserving Endangered Languages

  • UNESCO's Alarming Report: UNESCO identifies 42 endangered languages in India, predominantly spoken by tribal groups with less than 10,000 speakers.
  • Language Diversity as Cultural Richness: Analogous to biodiversity, linguistic diversity is vital for preserving unique cultures, knowledge, and identities.
  • Urgent Global Strategies Needed: Initiatives must be pursued to document, protect, and revitalize endangered languages. Other institutions should follow suit to curb language disappearance.

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