Revitalizing endangered languages for future generations

Linguist Bonny Sands speaks in clicks. The adjunct faculty member is an expert on click languages, and supports language revitalization efforts through documentation.

Sands began studying click languages in 1988 as a graduate student at UCLA. When fellow linguists have questions about click languages, she gets an email.

But the entire business of language revitalization itself, is endangered, in part because of the difficulty in finding sufficient long-term funding to study the languages: Sands described it as a crisis.

“There are about 2,000 languages in Africa and of those, everybody agrees that about 300 are seriously endangered,” Sands said. “But I argue that the actual number of languages that are in trouble is closer to 600.”

Sands’ work will be published in the book, Africa’s Endangered Languages, Documentary and Theoretical Approaches, which is in production will be released next year by Oxford University Press.

Revitalizing languages is an important step toward preserving the heritage in countries including Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and others.

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