We must, in this age of integration and complexity, work to recognize those areas where we can learn from cultures that build into our own, that enrich or sustain us, that give humanity, broadly, its metaphysical sense, its creative-adaptable quality. We know France as a place of great culture and profound philosophical insights and a highly developed legal system. But we tend not to think of France as a country whose most famous culture is simply one of many that came to dominate, and very really did stamp out the other cultures competing for survival, in a fractious agrarian society outside the capital, in the 19th century.
Rare words BBC reports may disappear with dying languages: see “In defence of ‘lost’ languages”
HALF OF ALL KNOWN LANGUAGES MAY DISAPPEAR BY 2100, MORE THAN 3,000 CULTURES LOST
The world’s three most widely-spoken languages, English, Spanish and Mandarin, each enjoy more than 450 million speakers worldwide. These languages are increasingly useful for international business and for diplomacy in an interconnected global society. But languages with fewer than 10 million speakers are now considered “minor” and many long-standing cultures are in danger of disappearing, as only a handful of people remain who can speak them.
In North America, there are now only half the number of indigenous languages spoken as there were 500 years ago, when Europeans began to settle permanently. There are 329 distinct languages spoken in the United States, roughly half indigenous, and yet radical conservatives intent on halting immigration are trying to establish English as the single language in which people are allowed to communicate with their government. Of the 3 major dialects of Lenape, once spoken widely by pre-colonial tribes throughout modern New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Connecticut, only one remains. It is now spoken almost exclusively on reservations in Oklahoma and Ontario, and is largely forgotten by the two youngest generations descended from the Lenape tribes.