By Rob Waugh
PUBLISHED: 14:01 EST, 7 May 2012 | UPDATED: 14:01 EST, 7 May 2012
Many of the world’s languages could become extinct if more is not done to protect threatened environments, scientists say.
It’s little reported next to the extinction of species, but as ‘wild’ areas are industrialised, languagees are being wiped out at a frightening rate, say Penn State University researchers.
Experts estimate that by the end of the century between 50 and 90% of the world’s languages may have disappeared.
With them disappear the stories and culture unique to those languages. Instead, an industrial ‘world culture’ takes over.
Dr Gorenflo, of Penn State University said: ‘We looked at regions important for biodiversity conservation and measured their linguistic diversity in an effort to understand an important part of the human dimension of these regions.
‘What ends up happening when we lose linguistic diversity is we lose a bunch of small groups with traditional economics.
‘Indigenous languages tend to be replaced by those associated with a modern industrial economy accompanied by other changes such as the introduction of chain saws.
New research shows that seventy per cent of languages are in biodiversity hotspots – the most threatened locations on earth – or wilderness areas.
With species disappearing 1000 times faster than at any other time, experts predict a grim future for many human tongues.
And as local languages are replaced by more universal ones local traditions and values disappear to be replaced by industrial ones, researchers say.
They argue that linguistic and biological diversity are linked, with the loss of one affecting the other.
Dr Larry Gorenflo writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: ‘These regions – hot spots and high biodiversity wilderness areas – often contain considerable linguistic diversity, accounting for 70 percent of all languages on Earth.
‘Moreover, the languages involved frequently are unique to particular regions, with many facing extinction.’
The researchers first looked at 35 biodiversity hot spots which comprise only 2.3 percent of the Earth’s surface but contain more than half the world’s vascular plants and 43 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species.
In these 35 hotspots, the researchers found 3,202 languages – nearly half of all languages spoken on Earth.
These hotspots are spread throughout the world’s continents with the exception of Antarctica.
They also examined linguistic diversity in five high biodiversity wilderness areas, whose remaining habitat covers about 6.1 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains about 17 percent of the vascular plant species and 6 percent of the terrestrial vertebrate species.
These regions contained another 1,622 languages, with many languages are unique to particular areas and are spoken by relatively few people, making them susceptible to extinction.
‘In terms of biodiversity conservation, all bets are off.
‘I think it argues for concerted conservation efforts that are integrated and try to maintain biodiversity and cultural diversity.’
He said that without cultural and linguistic diversity increasingly appears to be tied to biological diversity.
He said: ‘In many cases it appears that conditions that wipe out species wipe out languages,’ said Gorenflo.
‘I think basically this study helps to establish these areas of high biodiversity as the world’s most important landscapes.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2140824/Cutting-tongues-By-end-21st-century-90-worlds-languages-wiped-out.html#ixzz1uEIy9MfX