Why do languages die? | The Economist

I don’t speak those languages. In fact, very few people do. They’re used only by a handful of people and all those languages are
in danger of extinction. There are more than 7,000 languages spoken in the world today. But about a third of those
have fewer than 1,000 speakers and according to UNESCO more than 40% of those languages are in
danger of extinction. In fact, every fortnight, one of the world’s languages
disappears forever. When you say dead language,
many people think of Latin. But, Latin actually never died. It’s been spoken continuously
since the time of the Caesars, but it changed very gradually
over 2,000 years until it became French, Spanish, and
other romance languages. True language death
happens when communities switch to other languages and parent’s stop raising their children to speak their old one. When the last elderly speaker dies, the language is unlikely ever
to be spoken fluently again. If you look at this chart which measures the world’s languages
in terms of their size and their state of health, you can see that most languages
are ranked in the middle. English, like just a few
other dominant languages, is up at the top left-hand corner. It’s in a really strong state. But if your language is down here in the bottom right-hand
corner of the graph, like Kayapulau from Indonesia
or Kuruaya from Brazil, you are are in serious trouble. In the bad, old days governments just banned languages they didn’t like. But sometimes the pressure is more subtle. Any teenager growing up in
the Soviet Union soon realized that whatever language you spoke at home, mastering Russian was going
to be the key to success. Citizens of China, including Tibetans, as well as speakers of
Shanghainese or Cantonese face similar pressure
today to focus on Mandarin. Once a language is gone, well, it usually goes the way of the dodo. Just one language has ever come
back from the dead: Hebrew. It was extinct for two millennia but Jewish settlers to Palestine
in the early 20th centuries spoke different languages back in Europe and they adopted Hebrew on their arrival as their common language. It became Israel’s official
language when the country was fully established in 1948 and now had seven million speakers. Now Hebrew is the world’s
only fully revived language but others are trying. Cornish spoken in southwestern England died out two centuries ago. But today there are
several hundred speakers of the revived language. Practicality aside, human
diversity is a good thing in it’s own right. Imagine going on an exciting
holiday only to find that the food, clothing, buildings,
the people, and yes, the language was just
the same as back home. Oliver Wendell Holmes put it well, “Every language is a
temple in which the soul “of those who speak it is enshrined.” Moving that soul of the people
from a temple into a museum just isn’t the same thing.

75 Replies to “Why do languages die? | The Economist

  1. can it be possible to receive a endangered language.
    By mandating regional language to be studied in primary school?

  2. I'm all for moving toward a single spoken universal language. It'll tear down barriers and help with understanding and unification of one another. Maybe Esperanto?

  3. It's sad, really. How I wish I had been raised speaking one of my country's many native languages, yet as most middle-class Mexican families, I had to start with only Spanish. Today, there are some efforts to preserve and strengthen those languages, like Ayapaneko and Awakateko, that are on the verge of extinction, but reverting a trend that began 500 years ago, since the Spanish Conquest took place is incredibly hard. But it's worth trying, for just as Leon Portilla's poem in Nahuatl (the language of the Aztec) says, "Ihcuac tlahtolli ye miqui […] totlahcayo motolinia" (When a language dies […] humanity grows poorer).

  4. Good video until it got libtard at the end. And the argument for keeping 7,000 languages is? Better vacations? That's all you have?

  5. Languages by total number of speakers (in millions, 2018):

    English: 1,500
    Mandarin: 1,100
    Hindi: 650
    Spanish: 572
    Arabic: 540
    French: 480
    Russian: 275
    Portuguese: 235
    Bengali: 233
    German: 185
    Japanese: 128

    (weltsprachen-Instituto Cervantes-UNESCO)

  6. I say the end of languages is a false problem ; Why? Because I belive that like latin the English , the mandarin , the spanish and other now a days dominant languages are going to evolve and create other sub-languages (from phonetic sounds , regional terms , and other causes ) that wiyh time will evolve in total different languages ( ex: from latin came the italian , the spanish , the portuguese , the french , the romanian, etc )

  7. Yeah, imagine you are bitten by the escaped pet-cobra of your neighbor but nobody around you understands your language and what you want to tell them. Or you try to communicate with a person, who mistakes what yu say for an insult of his wife or your mother and kills you for it or declares war or you have to administer a potentially lifesaving, put potentially deadly drug but can't read the documentation. Yeah … speaking different languages and being unable to communicate with each other is obviously SOOOO great .. we absolutely need to ensure that it continues to be that way, because it's absolutely efficient if every group of 1000 people develops their own language so that they can't be understood by anybody else. Yeah … tribalism forever.

  8. Idk. He makes it sound like language is vital to culture. I think it's more important to have only a handful of languages in the world. Ig I'm pro pratical.

  9. This show is given one of the proof that Israel never was a country. The Palestinian who give them place to live and now they're kicking them out. Shame shame shame #boycottIsrael #boycott #israel

  10. Its inevitable, heck even english maybe radically different in a few hundred years. Eventually we will speak only one language and as someone who can speak 4 languages I say the benefits are greater with one language.

  11. Every language will die other than english and maybe in a few hundred or a thousand years that will also die and give way to a superior language

  12. My cousins were born in the US and they hesitate to speak our native language which is Nepali.So, I wonder why they are reluctant to speak

  13. Only Russia and China assimilate in the dominant language with arms and repression, but in the USA and Canada everybody continues speaking pre-Columbian languages, they are flourishing in full bloom.

  14. They become extinct because of global elite snowflake SJW cucks who don’t know that Muslims and socialists caused every war and disease outbreak in history! Right, Russian Troll Squad?

  15. You didn't actually explain why. The series "The Adventure of English" demonstrates why languages die, without actually saying it: English is a dynamic, accumulative mechanism for enabling rich communication. It is EVOLVING, and as such it's pushing out less evolved languages. Evolution is a process of adaptation, in which fitness for purpose weeds out the less adaptive. English's "fitness for purpose" is its ability to allow us to communicate effectively and most expressively. It's simply a better tool, so it squeezes out all its competition.

  16. Latin remains a living language, although one mostly spoken within the Roman Catholic Church. The number of speakers might not impress, but the cultural infrastructure is solid and the will to perpetuate the language remains strong; also, it is widely studied as an auxiliary language. So long as that continue: the language is not dead.

  17. People are dying due to war, terrorism, crime, drugs. Women and girls are on a regular basis being abducted and trafficked around the world, than forced into prostitution and you are concerned about endangered languages. These languages cannot resolve a single real world problem.

  18. Unlike species, which die unvoluntarily at the hands of man, languages nowadays (apart from a few culturally repressive places) usually die because of conscious (and often well-founded) decisions by its speakers to not use it any more or not teach it to their children. The network effect determines that the fewer speakers a language has, the less useful it is – and thus the less motivation anyone should have to learn it.
    The world may become slightly poorer in oral traditions and written literature with every language that dies, but the people who let it die become greatly richer in communication and knowledge about the world.
    This is globalisations and we won't be able to reverse the trend (nor should we, in my opinion)!

  19. Azul fellawen, thanks for the video. Like my language Berber/tamazight is still suffering from panarabisme repression. If our language won't be taught at primary school ,the only way to save it is to get our autonomy or independence

  20. The video doesn’t really explain why more and more languages are becoming extinct. You cannot explain this phenomenon without also asking how the great diversity came into being in the first place. Why would the process of increasing diversification suddenly get reversed? Is it only because of the British Empire + the Internet…. 🙂 there must be some deeper structural things going on here…

  21. I sepak basque. An incredible lenguage with over 1.00.000 speakers that is spoken on the north of Spain, but not in Spain. In the basque country. No one knows where it comes from. Is one of the oldest lenguages in the world.

  22. Why there should be a multi-language? If billions of people who spoke one language,why can't be it as a global language?

  23. The language of Gematria, when God merged letters with numbers. What year did that merge occur?
    We live under Gematria every day and have named them "programmed events." WHO's running that dam'd Gematria program?

  24. There is only ONE language that was extinct that has been fully revived: Hebrew and Cornish. Doesn't that make two languages, Lane?

  25. Awesomeness, but you didn’t talk about language planning. The killing of certain dialects, purposely, by governments, or powerful world entities.

    Also, you didn’t mention Brazil, one of the melting language pots. They have so many language registers and appropriations that it boggles the tongue. LOL.

    And, you didn’t talk about the fact that before Italian was Italian, it was Roman. Right? I think.

    Cool. Loved the T-Rex

  26. You should blame Spanish and English. As both languages are literally the 2 that everyone speaks nowadays.

  27. English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Korean, Hindi, Swahilli, Russian, Arabic, Persian, maybe Italian will soon be the only languages left. Globalization means you have to learn dominant languages or be left behind. It's like computer languages, sooner or later one wins out in business. The other languages will be saved and uploaded to hard drives. If WW3 happens, languages will die quickly out of necessity.

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