The end of languages

By Jesús Sierra

The disappearance of a language is also the end of knowledge and culture.

The death of Tommy George, the last of the kuku-thaypan in Australia, in July 2016 also put an end to the awu laya language, of which George was the only living speaker; with his passing away, thousands of years of orally transmitted history , knowledge and culture were lost.

Gyerang (6)Imagen Original por Oliver Bond,© Manang Languages Project, víaThe Endangered Languages Project

The most recent case is the death of Rosa Andrade, 67 year old speaker of resíngaro, one of the 43 indigenous languages left in Amazonia. In the American continent there are several languages in danger of disappearing leaving no trace behind.

In the last 10 years over a 100 languages disappeared and another 400 are in critical situation. At least 51 people in the world are the only living speakers who preserve a language. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) every 14 days a language dies; at this rate half of the seven thousand languages and dialects spoken in the world will disappear.

Gyerang (2)Original Image by Oliver Bond,© Manang Languages Project, vía The Endangered Languages Project

In order to preserve these languages, cultures and knowledge, Swarthmore College of Pennsylvania linguistics professor, K. David Harrison, developed the "Enduring voices" project with National Geographic throughout the world to record and preserve the different languages.

Languages like koro, a language spoken by less than a thousand people in the mountains of India, were recorded for the first time. In Mexico they managed to document the seri, which is spoken in Sonora by an ethnic group of the same name.

Gyerang (11)Original Image by Oliver Bond,© Manang Languages Project, vía The Endangered Languages Project

In an attempt to tackle this issue, Google opened a forum called "Endangered Languages" for people who want to keep their language, allows them to upload videos, documents and recordings, so they can at least leave a record of their existence.

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