Five hotspots where languages are most endangered were listed Tuesday in a briefing by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society.
In addition to northern Australia, eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and the U.S. Southwest, many native languages are endangered in South America—Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia—as well as the area including British Columbia, and the states of Washington and Oregon.
Losing languages means losing knowledge, says K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.
"When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday."
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Every fortnight, another language dies; some 40 per cent of the world's languages are thought to be at risk. Now a new study has identified those that are most endangered.