Sunday, January 09, 2005

On human language | Endangered languages

The Economist reviews the decline of human languages. Some interesting excerpts:
  • 10,000 years ago, when the world had just 5m-10m people, they spoke perhaps 12,000 languages between them
  • today the world has about 5 billion people and only about 6,800 distinct languages
  • Europe has only around 200 languages; the Americas about 1,000; Africa 2,400; and Asia and the Pacific perhaps 3,200, of which Papua New Guinea alone accounts for well over 800. The median number of speakers is a mere 6,000, which means that half the world's languages are spoken by fewer people than that.

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