Brexit may threaten the many minority languages of Britain

The Cornish language has come back from the dead. Once officially branded “extinct” by the UN, the language, spoken primarily in Cornwall in Southwest England, was upgraded to “endangered” in 2010.

Cornish may have come back, but its situation remains precarious. Ethnologue, a research project that catalogs the world’s languages, says that there are “no known” speakers of Cornish as a first language, though it mentions an “emerging” population of second-language speakers.

Now, advocates of minority languages in the UK and Europe are warning that a British exit from the EU, or “Brexit,” could remove what little support Cornish and its linguistic counterparts already have. Voters in Britain go to the polls tomorrow (June 23) to decide whether to remain or leave the EU.

“The indirect effect of Brexit on our languages is potentially disastrous,” reads a joint letter signed by representatives of various minority languages in the UK, including Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Cornish. The letter is backed by the European Language Equality Network, a non-profit group that campaigns to protect Europe’s less-spoken languages.

Read more: Quartz