A group of experts working for UNESCO have just finished a study dealing with the issue of the longevity of languages of the world. The study revealed an astonishing truth. Of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and likely to disappear in this century. In fact, one falls out of use about every two weeks.
It was in 1987 that UNESCO initiated an international programme, whose aim is to identify and record endangered languages and using language education in general, and language teaching in particular, as a means of promoting increased understanding between nations “peace through language diversity and plurilingualism “.
The research, reported in the study of UNISCO was based on field research and data analysis. It says that “more than half the languages had no written form and were vulnerable to loss and being forgotten”; their loss leaves no dictionary, no text, and no record of the accumulated knowledge and history of a vanished culture. In Australia, nearly all the 400 spoken and written languages are endangered and its number is lowering to 25 currently. Cameron and Niger are quoted as case of African countries where languages completely disappeared from the spoken and written field in the last decade.
The thorough study of UNESCO showed that any language spoken by more than one million of speakers has a life expectancy going to 50 year and more depend on its regular feasibility and applicability. The experts did not limit themselves to the linguistic poverty or the scientific character as the unique reasons to explain these disappearances, the political reasons are also put forward because these last factors would accelerate the disappearance of languages phenomenon.
Concerning Amazigh language, the study classified it as endangered language . The study included the fact that “Tamazight, and all its major varieties extending over North-Africa, have a whole provisional existence thus vulnerable and threatened of extinction”. Although Amazigh language is spoken by millions, but the cultural production and its diffusion is still linked to the political considerations based on austerity and social ostracism imposed by the global Pan-Arabic regimes which stand in the way of its evolution. This is the reason why Amazigh language in North-Africa facing an unrelentingly cruel process of deterioration. Even if some of our intellectuals are seriously leaning on the problem, and made every effort to elaborate new theories and sufficient pedagogical tools for the promotion of the written usage of Tamazight.
Another measure of the threat to many relativley unknown languages, is that 83 languages with “global” influence are spoken and written by 80 percent of the world population. Most of the others face extinction at a rate, the researchers said, that exceeds that of birds, mammals, fish and plants.
I ideas moclearly recognise that these ve directly to the call for research in the Amazigh field. But rather than simply a call for more research, they call for better research and for more coordination of efforts. In a larger respect, they ask of our research more of our efforts.
Written by Sabri EL HAMMAOUI