Professor Nick Evans
Original Published Date: 
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Full release issued by the Linguistic Society of America.

A new study, co-authored by Professor Nicholas Evans, Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, shows that there have been both significant advances and critical shortfalls in the progress made in documenting and revitalizing endangered languages over the last 25 years. 

The study presents the most reliable figures on world-wide languages endangerment so far: more than half of the close to 7,000 now living languages are currently endangered. Around 600 of these are already nearly extinct, and are now only spoken occasionally by members of the grandparent generation. About 950 endangered languages are still also spoken by children, but the proportion of children acquiring these languages is getting smaller and smaller. The authors warn that "if this trend is not reversed, these languages will also die out." 

Fortunately, linguistic research can now take full advantage of technological developments through automating particularly time-consuming aspects of transcription work, and helped by such technological progress for data collection, processing and archiving, our scientific knowledge of the world's languages has significantly increased over the past 25 years. 

Photo credit: 

Image: Professor Nick Evans interprets a contract for Kaiadilt artist Sally Gabori, whose artwork  appears in the Queensland High Court.  Photograph courtesy Hilary Jackman.