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The title of this post will no doubt have made you think about whether languages can become extinct or disappear. It may seem strange, but the truth is that yes, they can. There are languages which existed thousands of years ago but that are now gone. This is not a one-off event or something that is just beginning to be studied now. The UN first examined it in 1994 with the publication of the “Red Book of Endangered Languages”, which showed which languages are threatened, where they are located and the degree to which they are still in use.

What is the use of knowing that a language has disappeared? Well, mainly to identify what is happening to languages around the world. Does that mean that English or French are going to disappear? No. Both languages are going to be around for a very long time, so if you need to translate your documents into one of those languages you can request a translation without needing to worry about this.

When a language dies.

The death of a language is a natural process. Remember that the word language refers to the perfectly developed linguistic system of a country or community. In fact, the death of a language does not take place when the last speaker dies, but rather when the speaker before them dies, since it is understood that a language is a communication tool and that obviously implies the need to have someone to talk to. And, although it may seem surprising, there are languages spoken by as little as 4% of the population.

What, then, causes a language to disappear?  It is thought that famine, migration and disease are the main reasons for the disappearance of a language. Can anything be done to prevent a language disappearing? Yes, although, as always, this will depend on politics, as good solutions to this problem include education policies that impose the studying of certain languages or dialects to keep them alive and, for example, producing grammar or other books on those languages.

 

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