Language Translation: Which languages are truly about to die?
We hear a lot about “dying languages.” But which ones are really on the verge of extinction?
Languages, like species or cultures, can be endangered. When we think of languages that could disappear, we often think of obscure tribal languages, where the tongue dies out with the death of the last native speaker.
An intriguing (and somewhat irreverent) article published on Weirdworm identifies seven languages that are "hanging on by a thread." Of the seven, most sound like languages that could be typical candidates for extinction. They have extremely long histories and are connected to a limited geographical area, but have slowly been absorbed or dominated by other languages: a classic recipe for language extinction.
The top two languages on the list, however, caught my eye because they don't necessarily fit this profile. The first is Maritime Sign Language which, despite its nautical name, has nothing to do with ships and sailors. It is simply a sign language for the hearing-impaired, which was once used in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, Canada. Wikipedia refers to the language as "effectively extinct," with "few signers."
The second highly-endangered language is "Balboa Creole French," which is apparently spoken only on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California. "Yep, California has its very own dying language," the article remarks.
Balboa Creole French is a mixture of French, German, English and Spanish, comprehensible to few. A 2009 census demonstrated estimated that only 20 people on Balboa Island could still speak the language.
I wonder what the situation is in 2010...