Endangered language

From Academic Kids

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 (linguicide). A dead language (or extinct language) is one which has no native speakers.


Identifying endangered languages

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 300 surviving native speakers, only 15 of which use the language actively, 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.

Examples of endangered languages

Main article: list of endangered languages

Examples of recently extinct languages

Main article: list of extinct languages

With last known speaker and date of death:

  1. entire Alsean family
    1. Alsea: John Albert (1942)
    2. Yaquina: (1884)
  2. Apalachee: (early 18th century)
  3. Atakapa: (early 20th century)
  4. Atsugewi: (1988)
  5. Beothuk: Shanawdithit (white person name: "Nancy April") (1829)
  6. Cayuse: (ca. 1930s)
  7. Chemakum: (ca. 1940s)
  8. Chimariko: (ca. 1930s)
  9. Chitimacha: Benjamin Paul (1934) & Delphine Ducloux (1940)
  10. entire Chumashan family: Barbareño language was last to become extinct.
    1. Barbareño: Mary Yee (1965)
    2. Ineseño
    3. Island Chumash
    4. Obispeño
    5. Purisimeño
    6. Ventureño
  11. Coahuilteco: (18th century)
  12. Cochimí (a Yuman-Cochimí language): (early 19th century)
  13. entire Comecrudan family
    1. Comecrudo: recorded from children (Andrade, Emiterio, Joaquin, & others) of last speakers in 1886
    2. Garza: last recorded in 1828
    3. Mamulique: last recorded in 1828
  14. entire Coosan family
    1. Hanis: Martha Johnson (1972)
    2. Miluk: Annie Miner Peterson (1939)
  15. all Costanoan languages (which make up a subfamily of the Utian language family): (ca. 1940s)
    1. Karkin
    2. Mutsun
    3. Northern Costanoan
    4. Rumsen
    5. Soledad
  16. Cotoname: last recorded from Santos Cavázos and Emiterio in 1886
  17. Esselen: report of few speakers left in 1833, extinct before end 19th century
  18. Gabrielino (an Uto-Aztecan language): elderly speakers last recorded in 1933
  19. Galice-Applegate (an Athabaskan language):
    1. Galice dialect: Hoxie Simmons (1963)
  20. Juaneño (an Uto-Aztecan language): last recorded in 1934
  21. Kakadu (Gagadju): Big Bill Neidjie (July 2002)
  22. entire Kalapuyan family:
    1. Central Kalapuyan:
      1. Ahantchuyuk, Luckimute, Mary's River, and Lower McKenzie River dialects: last speakers were about 6 persons who were all over 60 in 1937
      2. Santiam dialect: (ca. 1950s)
    2. Northern Kalapuyan:
      1. Tualatin dialect: Louis Kenoyer (1937)
      2. Yamhill dialect: Louisa Selky (1915)
    3. Yonkalla: last recorded in 1937 from Laura Blackery Albertson who only partly remembered it.
  23. Karankawa: (1858)
  24. Kathlamet (a Chinookan language): (ca. 1930s)
  25. Kitanemuk (an Uto-Aztecan language): Marcelino Rivera, Isabella Gonzales, Refugia Duran (last recorded 1937)
  26. Kitsai (a Caddoan language): (ca. 1940)
  27. Kwalhioqua-Clatskanie (an Athabaskan language): children of the last speakers remembered a few words, recorded in 1935 & 1942
    1. Clatskanie dialect: father of Willie Andrew (ca. 1870)
    2. Kwalhioqua dialect: mother of Lizzie Johnson (1910)
  28. Lower Chinook (a Chinookan language): (ca. 1930s)
  29. Mahican: last spoken in Wisconsin (ca. 1930s)
  30. Molala: Fred Yelkes (1958)
  31. Mattole-Bear River (an Athabaskan language):
    1. Bear River dialect: material from last elderly speaker recorded (ca. 1929)
    2. Mattole dialect: material recorded (ca. 1930)
  32. Manx: Ned Maddrell (December 1974) (but is being revived as a second language)
  33. Miami-Illinois: (1989)
  34. Mohegan: Fidelia Fielding (1908)
  35. Natchez: Watt Sam & Nancy Raven (early 1930s)
  36. Nooksack: Sindick Jimmy (1977)
  37. Nottoway (an Iroquoian language): last recorded before 1836
  38. Pentlatch (a Salishan language): Joe Nimnim (1940)
  39. Salinan: (ca. 1960)
  40. Siuslaw: (ca. 1970s)
  41. Susquehannock: all last speakers murdered in 1763
  42. Takelma: Molly Orton (or Molly Orcutt) & Willie Simmons (both not fully fluent) last recorded in 1934
  43. Tasmanian: (late 19th century)
  44. Tataviam (an Uto-Aztecan language): Juan José Fustero who remembered only a few words of his grandparents' language (recorded 1913)
  45. Tillamook (a Salishan language): (1970)
  46. Tonkawa: 6 elderly people in 1931
  47. Tsetsaut (an Athabaskan language): last fluent speaker was elderly man recorded in 1894
  48. Tunica: Sesostrie Youchigant (ca. mid 20th century)
  49. Ubykh: Tevfik Esenç (October 1992)
  50. all dialects of Upper Chinook (a Chinookan language) are extinct, except for the Wasco-Wishram dialect. The Clackamas dialect began extinct in the 1930s, other dialects have little documentation. (The Wasco-Wishram dialect is still spoken by 6 elders.)
  51. Upper Umpqua: Wolverton Orton, last recorded in 1942
  52. Vegliot Dalmatian: Tuone Udaina (Italian: Antonio Udina) (10 June 1898)
  53. Wiyot: Della Prince (1962)
  54. Yana: Ishi (1916)

See also

External links


  • Campbell, Lyle; & Mithun, Marianne (Eds.). (1979). The languages of native America: Historical and comparative assessment. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Hale, Ken; Krauss, Michael; Watahomigie, Lucille J.; Yamamoto, Akira Y.; Craig, Colette; Jeanne, LaVerne M. et al. (1992). Endangered languages. Language, 68 (1), 1-42.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Sebeok, Thomas A. (Ed.). (1973). Linguistics in North America (parts 1 & 2). Current trends in linguistics (Vol. 10). The Hauge: Mouton. (Reprinted as Sebeok 1976).
  • Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove. (2000). Linguistic genocide in education or worldwide diversity and human rights? Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-3468-0.fi:Uhanalainen kieli

fr:Langues en danger ja:危機に瀕する言語


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