Ideological, Attitudinal and Social Identity Perspectives
Martin Pütz & Neele Mundt - Introduction: Vanishing Languages in Context
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Martin Pütz & Neele Mundt
Introduction: Vanishing Languages in Context
There is general consensus among linguists and language experts that half of the world’s 7,000 languages spoken by approximately seven billion people today will disappear before the end of this century with one language dying “every three months or so” (Thomason 2015: 2). Looking at the ratio of speakers and their languages it becomes evident that about 96% of the world’s languages are spoken and used by about 3% of the world’s population. For a variety of reasons, speakers of many smaller, less dominant languages/dialects stop using their heritage language and instead adopt more global, dominant languages such as Mandarin, Hindi, English or Spanish. These smaller “vanishing” idioms are not being learnt by children as mother tongues or first languages anymore and therefore do not contribute to intergenerational transmission. In this vein, language endangerment can be defined as “the en masse, often radical shift away from unique, local languages and language practices” (Woodbury 2011: 160), or, as Thomason (2015: 4) more precisely put it:
A language is clearly endangered when it is at risk of vanishing within a generation or two – that is, when its last fluent speakers are elderly, when few or no children are learning it as a first language, and when no one is learning it as a second language.
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