196 Indian languages ’endangered’: UNESCO

With 196 of its languages listed as endangered, India, a nation with great linguistic diversity, tops the UNESCO’s list of countries having maximum number of dialects on the verge of extinction.
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Updated on Feb 21, 2009 04:54 AM IST
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PTI | ByDharam Shourie, New York

With 196 of its languages listed as endangered, India, a nation with great linguistic diversity, tops the UNESCO’s list of countries having maximum number of dialects on the verge of extinction.

India is closely followed by the US which stands to lose 192 languages and Indonesia, where 147 are in peril.

The facts were revealed in the latest Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing unveiled by the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO on the eve of International Mother Language Day on Saturday.

The atlas classifies around 2,500 of the 6,000 languages spoken worldwide as endangered. It further adds that nearly 200 languages have fewer than 10 speakers and 178 others have between 10 and 50 speakers.

It reveals that over 200 languages used in the world have died out over the last three generations, 538 are critically endangered, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered and 607 unsafe.

“The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it,” UNESCO Director-General Kochiro Matsuura said.

The language of Manx in the Isle of Man died in 1974 with the death of Ned Maddrell while Eyak in Alaska met its demise last year when Marie Smith Jones passed away.

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