According to linguists, every 14 days a language dies and it is estimated that half of the world’s languages have died out in the past 500 years. By 2011, more than 3000 languages spoken on earth may disappear. Language crisis similar to this occurred in around 8000B.C., as Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine, authors of ‘Vanishing Voices’ once said, “the last time human language faced such a crisis of collapse was when we invented farming, around 8000 B.C., during the switch-over from highly mobile hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture.” The objective of this essay is to investigate issues about language death and give information about it to the general public.
Causes of Language Death
Apart from the death of speakers due to diseases, war, etc, causes of language death include language shift and language attitude. 1.Language Shift
Throughout the human history, it is a common phenomenon that the languages of powerful groups spread while the languages of minority groups extinct. Due to economical and political reasons such as change of government and trading with other countries, communities may use the languages of power groups or even the global lingua franca, English, in different domains. Take English in Australia as an example, speakers of Dyirbal, an Australian aboriginal language, learn English at school and use it in most social domains. As there are no written pieces of Dyirbal and they can only use Dyirbal to communicate with the older generations in very few contexts, speakers are losing proficiency in Dyirbal. This example illustrates what Holmes(1992) has mentioned, “The process of language death for the language comes about through this kind of gradual loss of fluency and competency by its speakers.”
2.Language Attitudes towards Different Languages
People’s language attitudes towards their home language and the powered language will also affect the emergence of language death. If people see the ability of using...