It is difficult to give an exact figure because there are many different dialects that may of may not be considered languages. Additionally, understanding of languages is always developing and therefore new languages are continue to be discovered. However, there are approximately 6,800 living distinct languages.
Anthropologists and linguists have coined the term “language death” to describe the rapid extinction of languages worldwide. According to the University of Houston, about 80% of all languages spoken in human history have become extinct. Furthermore, according to the journal Nature, 90% of the world’s current languages may experience this phenomenon by the next generation. The last speaker of a particular language, and the language itself, might die at any time.
Academics conduct research and work to conserve languages, due to the fact that cultural traditions and entire sets of thoughts can be preserved through a language. As succinctly reported by the University of Houston, “Many of today’s endangered languages arose amid intense interaction with the natural environment, and house myriad details about animal behavior, plants and traditional medicine.”
One of my undergraduate linguistic anthropology courses included a project on language death, and it’s quite a fascinating topic. I suggest that you read about it!
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