Saturday, 1 January 2011

Living, constructed, endangered, extinct, dead and resurrected languages

How many languages do we speak?
The Ethnologue (encyclopedia of the world’s known languages) quotes 6909 living languages, that’s one language for every 862,000 people on Earth.
As economic and cultural globalization continue, many languages will become endangered and eventually, extinct. People find it easier to communicate and conduct business in the dominant languages of world commerce: English, Chinese, and Spanish.
In the next 200 years, half of the 6,000 currently spoken languages will be lost.
94% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the World’s population, which tells us that there are hundreds of languages with just a few thousand or hundred speakers. Let’s look at some more figures:
·        In the late1990s English was the second most-common native tongue in the world, trailing only Chinese.
·        By 2050, Chinese will continue to be the first, followed by Hindi-Urdu of India and Arabic and English, and Spanish – as third and fourth.
·        Europe has 234 languages spoken on a daily basis
Less is known about the constructed languages (conlangs). Some were intended to foster communication such as: Esperanto, Europanto or Ido. Creation of mixed languages intended to promote international peace and tolerance, Esperanto was named from the word esperanto, which translates "one who hopes”.
Others are associated with fictional worlds: Na'vi (the language from the film Avatar) or Star Trek languages (Klingon and Romulan).
Just for fun, hodgepodge variations of English can also be mentioned here. Some examples include     Czenglish (from Czech), Denglish (German), Franglais (French), Greeklish (Greek), Spanglish ( Spanish) etc. One of the most interesting creations is Chinglish (written or spoken ungrammatical or nonsensical English that is influenced by Chinese). Sometimes delightful, some other times bizarre, Chinglish contain errors that are fun. For an interesting collection of Chinglish,go to:

More about endangered, extinct, dead and resurrected languages in our next post.

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