Denser road networks, higher levels of education and even climate change are just a few of the factors that could lead to the loss of more than 20 per cent of the world’s 7000 languages by the end of the century – equivalent to one language vanishing per month.
Based on a new model similar to those used for predicting species loss, a team of biologists, mathematicians and linguists led by Lindell Bromham at Australian National University in Canberra has determined that, without effective conservation, language loss will increase five-fold by 2100.
“This is a frightening statistic,” says Bromham, adding that her team’s estimates are “conservative”.
“Every time a language is lost, we lose so much,” she says. “We lose a rich source of cultural information; we lose a unique and beautiful expression of human creativity.”
Current language loss estimates vary considerably, with some predicting that up to 90 per cent of languages might no longer be spoken at the start of the next century.
Bromham, an evolutionary biologist, and her colleagues suspected that by borrowing modelling techniques from studies on biodiversity loss, they might be able to capture a more statistically sound view of language diversity loss.
Read more: New Scientist