Recent Blog Posts

Just as linguists drew from the field of biology to apply the terms “living”, “endangered”, “dead”, and “extinct” to languages, so, too, do other fields dip into linguistics, either to develop models based on concepts popularized in that field or – in the case of mathematician Anne Kandler and colleagues […]

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Songs can elicit a range of emotions, and deliver a meaningful message in their lyrics. In whistled languages, the sound may be pretty, but the message is all business. Instead of speaking words phonetically, they are, of course, whistled. Their repertoire is often based on a traditional language from that […]

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Have you ever wondered about the origins of indigenous languages spoken throughout the United States? We often don’t think about North America’s great wealth of indigenous languages. Nor do we usually consider that, as time has passed, many of these languages have completely disappeared or are currently in danger of […]

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If you had told a linguist five years ago that text messaging would help save an endangered language, he or she probably would have laughed in your face. But it’s true, according to Samuel Herrera of the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City. He found […]

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Crowdsourcing endangered languages is one way to preserve languages in peril of disappearing. Biagio Arobba’s website LiveAndTell, for instance, uses a social media interface to archive Native American languages. Still, other methods have recently been developed to catalogue and disseminate endangered tongues. Spearheaded by Laura Welcher, the Rosetta Project is […]

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Over the past few years, we’ve written many times about endangered languages and highlighted specific ones like Mecanese and Shiyeyi. We’ve also discussed some staggering statistics: there are 538 critically endangered languages, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered, and 607 unsafe languages in the world. Still, with all this talk […]

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This installment of the Beyond Words' feature Endangered Language Watch—in which writers discuss languages at risk of extinction around the world—will focus on the Macanese language. Macanese: A Chameleon of a Language Imagine a people whose native language combines Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese, and Portuguese, and whose native territory will only […]

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The announcement this week of findings regarding a previously unknown language has shaken up the field of linguistics. During a 2008 National Geographic expedition in India’s remote Arunachai Pradesh region in the Himalayas, two researchers discovered an unrecorded language they identified as “Koro.” The language has only an estimated 800 […]

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Salish As a recently arrived transplant to Kalispell, Montana, I couldn’t help noticing that several of the road signs on Highway 93 are written in English and an interesting looking language that I later learned was called ‘Salish.’ Salish consists of consonant clusters (sometimes as many as 13 in a […]

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Sports teams are not the only things struggling for survival in Southern Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Like professional soccer outfits, languages often compete for dominance, and overtime some of them advance while others lose speakers and begin to disappear. UNESCO reports that more than half of the […]

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