By 2115 about 90% of the languages in the world will be extinct, according to the prediction of a linguist from an American university. This means that what would remain will be about 600 languages. The reasons given for the possible situation are the inability of parents to teach their native languages to their children and because of globalization, as cultures tend to be fragmented when people migrate to new lands. The prediction was revealed by Dr. John McWhorter, who is a music, philosophy and American studies expert at Columbia University.
The observation is not exactly new because it has been happening in many parts of the world. In Australia for example, the Indigenous languages have slowly disappeared since the British came to colonize the continent. There is no escaping the fact that the unique languages of lesser known cultures would find it difficult to survive and would eventually be swallowed by more dominant languages such as Chinese and English. The continuous search for work in other places also adds to the situation.
Languages spoken by smaller groups are not likely to be passed on to their children, as they will deem them to be no longer useful. Likewise, when a language has no written form, a skip in generation would most likely also result in its eventual extinction.
However, Dr. McWhorter ruled out that the future would be looking at a monolithic world, despite it having fewer cultures and fewer languages. It is not possible for the world to speak just one language and that a Tower of Babel scenario is unlikely. He further explained that language is part of one’s culture and not only comprises rules and words. He expounded that it is just not possible to have one dominant language, such as English, because it would take rampant and massive population movements for this scenario to occur.
Dr. McWhorter also explained that even the most sophisticated of translation tools would not be able to save languages. At the moment, many translation tools boast of being able to quickly translate from one language to another. However, when the language is no longer used to converse with the younger generation, the children would not have any interest in using the technology to translate a language that they do not speak or understand.
He added that teaching dying languages in school actually creates newer versions of the languages, often with simplified grammar and limited vocabularies. He believes that the efforts for language preservation, which inadvertently lead to the creation of new languages, would ultimately lead to the creation of languages that are less complicated. Just like adults trying to learn new languages, they would only pick up elements that are useful to them but will not take notice of the other details of the language.
The first wave of this scenario was when the Vikings invaded England. The second wave was when African natives were shipped to other countries as slaves and were forced to learn a new language quickly. They were able to learn the most basic of sentence structures and a limited vocabulary and invented a new language to fill in the gaps. The result was the variety of Creole languages. The migration that is happening today constitutes the third wave, where children of immigrants speaking a variety of languages grow up speaking a version of their new country’s language mixed with their native tongues.
In the end, he said that even if most of the languages would be lost, it also means that the barrier to effective communication would be diminished.
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