ENDANGERED AND MINORITY LANGUAGES
Language is one of the most important choices that allows humans to develop their rights as a primary mark of identity. The violation of this right is widespread in countries where the government doesn‟t allow the citizens to express their ethnic identity. Language constitutes an area of potential conflict in Europe, Africa and Asia, in countries where language rights are subject to ethnic discrimination and where recognition of their identities is demanded from the state. According to Ethnologue, 473 languages are currently close to extinction. In the Americas alone, 182 are endangered by the end of the century. 1These figures should make all humans think about the reasons that threaten them and how these languages are treated. To analyze the role that languages play in our society we should consider questions such as „How do languages die out and why?‟ or „In which ways does globalization influence the marginalization of minority languages?‟ We have a lot of information about saving endangered animals and we‟re inclined to not buy certain types of clothes made of animal skin, but what about the issue of dying languages? Is there any concern about them? Language is the part of us that make us humans and unique individuals in the world and it allows us to express our identity. Language has been used to pass knowledge from generation to generation, to express the variety of the customs and literature of our different territories.
Analyzing this topic should make us think about the origin of this marginalization and what reasons have been responsible for this exclusion. Globalization has affected economics, media and therefore language. As a result, the
view of culture around the world is changing and the desire to have an integrated world culture reduces the number of languages that humans speak. A common language has become more important and it‟s being introduced in commerce, services, politics, media and education and dialects and languages that were used as mother tongue languages, now risk disappearing. Wars, earthquakes, tsunamis and such kinds of natural catastrophes can shift the balance between languages. According to Barbara F. Grimes, the Paulohi language speakers in Maluku, Indonesia, experienced a severe earthquake and tsunami several years ago which killed all but about 50 of them. 2 Related to this point we can also say that migrations to a place other than the traditional territory can be a reason why the speakers of a language are forced to acquire another language and then, substitute the former one for the new one. The Naka'ela in Maluku, Indonesia, reportedly decreased in number after moving down from the mountains to a coastal town on Seram Island. 3 Colonization and the introduction of a new language into the territory of a existent cultural group can also put at risk the traditional language, as with the Hawaiian people, who now form only about 20% of the total population in their traditional territory. 4 The most widely known example is that of North America, where the colonizers forced the native population to speak the language that they were bringing with them and created institutions that cut them off from all the connections that they could have with their ethnic language and culture. Furthermore, even if it can‟t be considered to be one of the main reasons for this discrimination, we can observe that parents have preferences when they have to choose the language their children are going to learn at school. Sometimes they decide to use a 2 3
Summer Institute of Linguistics website. B. F. Grimes, 2000, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Dallas: SIL International, p. 502 4 B. F. Grimes, 2000, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Dallas: SIL International, p. 366
different language from their mother tongue because it is more prestigious and it can be better accepted in industry, business and education....
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