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A Maka indigenous woman handles a copy of the Bible translated into her native language. Maka indigenous leader-in-training Tsiweyenki, or Gloria Elizeche in Spanish, handles a copy of the Bible translated into her native language, in Mariano Roque Alonso, Paraguay, April 17, 2019 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

Indigenous Languages Are in Danger of Going Extinct Around the World

Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019

Seven thousand indigenous languages are spoken around the world today, and four in 10 of them are in danger of going extinct, a recent United Nations study warned. After its release in August, U.N. experts called for a series of steps, including new laws and international commitments, to reverse what they described as the “historic destruction” of indigenous languages.

Researchers like the linguist Frank Seifart of Berlin’s Leibniz Center for General Linguistics, whose work includes a study of Carabayo, a language of indigenous people in the Colombian Amazon, have found that older speakers of a range of indigenous languages are refraining from passing the language on to their children. “When I say that one generation chooses to not pass on another language, the choice is of course never entirely free, but a response to all sorts of more or less explicit pressures, and in some cases outright violence and suppression,” Seifart said in an interview. ...

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