Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Endangered language

An endangered language is a language with so few surviving speakers that it is in danger of falling out of use. For example, many Native American languages in the United States became extinct through policies in the 19th and early 20th centuries discouraging and/or outlawing their use.

While there is no definite threshold for identifying a language as endangered, three main criteria are used as guidelines:

  1. The number of speakers currently living.
  2. The mean age of native and/or fluent speakers.
  3. The percentage of the youngest generation acquiring fluency with the language in question.

For example, Ainu is endangered in Japan, with only approximately 15 surviving native speakers and few youth acquiring fluency in it. A language might also be declared as endangered if it has 100 speakers, but the speakers are all over the age of 90, and no youth are learning the language.

Some languages, such as those in Indonesia may have tens of thousands of speakers but be endangered because children are no longer learning them, or speakers are in the process of shifting to using the national language Indonesian (or a local Malay variety) in place of local languages.

In contrast, a language with only 100 speakers might be considered very much alive if it is the primary language of a community, and is the first (or only) language of all children in that community.

Table of contents
1 Examples of endangered languages
2 Examples of recently extinct languages
3 External Links

Examples of endangered languages

See also List of endangered languages for a more complete list.

Examples of recently extinct languages

With last known speaker and date of death:

The Rosetta Project is an online language archive which seeks to preserve endangered languages.

See also List of extinct languages for a more complete list.

External Links