25 Most Endangered Languages In The World

Posted by , Updated on June 9, 2014

Countries around the world may boast of languages inherent to them alone, but the fact remains that if they do not do something about their own endangered languages, they may quietly go into extinction. There are many reasons why a certain language became endangered. It may be because the population who speaks the language is in physical danger due to natural disasters, war, and genocide but it can also be because the speakers are prevented from speaking the language due to political repression or cultural hegemony. Whatever the reason these are the 25 most endangered languages in the world.

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25

Ainu

Ainu

Ainu, a Japanese dialect, is known as one of the rarest language still in existence. The members of the Ainu ethnic group on the island of Hokkaido speak the language. It has no other genealogical relationship with any other languages, but until the 20th century, a small number of people in the Kuri Islands spoke it. All languages, except the Hokkaido language are extinct and though the Hokkaido Ainu is endangered with 300 known users and 15 fluent speakers, there are ongoing attempts to revive it.

24

Apiaka

Apiaka

Apiaka is the spoken language of the indigenous people of the same name who reside in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Belonging to the sixth branch of the Tupi language, the Apiaka dialect is considered by UNESCO to be critically endangered where there is only one remaining speaker who can fully speak the language. Nowadays, most people of the Apiaka tribe speak Portuguese, while those who intermarry with other tribes speak their spouses’ language. While there had been attempts to revive the language, these were mainly unsuccessful. However, there is a recent initiative to revive the language through the production of the ‘Apiaka Word’ textbook.

23

Bikya

Bikya

Bikya, which is also known as Furu, is a Bantoid language spoken in Cameroon. The language was put in the spotlight when an English linguist, David Dilby, filmed an 87-year old woman speaking in Bikya, her native tongue. Four surviving speakers were identified in 1986, and only one man in his seventies can speak the language. There is a possibility that this language is already extinct, though there is no proof yet to prove otherwise.

22

Chamicuro

Chamicuro

This is a critically endangered language with only 8 people known to speak the language. The Chamicuro tribe, which is an aboriginal tribe in South America, has a population of 10 to 20 people who live in the tributary of the Huallaga River in a beautiful plain called Pampa Hermosa in Peru. Though a Chamicuro dictionary has been created, no children can speak the language as they all shifted to Spanish.

21

Chemehuevi

Chemehuevi

This language is a Uto-Aztecan, Northern Uto-Aztecan, Numic, Southern language spoken by the Chemehuevi tribe. You can hear this language being spoken in Ute, Colorado and in other areas like Southern Pauite, Utah, northern Arizona, southern parts of Nevada, and the Colorado River in California. Though the Chemehuevi is still existing and thriving today, only 3 adults are known to fully speak the language. Common Chemehuevi words still spoken today include kaiv for mountain, hucip for ocean, mahav for tree, and tittvip for ground or soil.


20

Dumi

Dumi

This is a Kiranti language mainly spoken in the area around the Tap and Rava rivers and in the mountains of Khotang District in Nepal. With only 8 people speaking the language, which is a part of the Tibeto-Burman language family, this is considered to be critically endangered. Preservation of the language has been made by creating a dictionary, as well as a number of books written about the language’s grammar and syntax.

19

Dusner

Dusner

The spoken tribal language in the Wandamen Bay area Cenderawasih in Papua, Indonesia, this language is critically endangered as it was reported that there are only three remaining speakers of this language, and they were reported to be injured during natural disasters. Linguists from the University of Oxford are striving to preserve the Dusner language as it was reported that two of those remaining native speakers narrowly escaped death during a flood while the other one is living near a volcano when it erupted.

18

Kaixana

Kaixana

This language is said to be critically endangered with its sole remaining speaker, which is a 78-year old man named Raimundo Avelino who is residing in Limoeiro, a municipality of Japura in the state of Amazons. It was once spoken in a village near the banks of the Japura River until the Portuguese settlers took it over.

17

Kansa

Kansa

Kansa, a Siouan language of the Dheqihan group, was once spoken by the Kaw people of Oklahoma. However, its last native speaker, Walter Kekahbah, has died in 1983. It is a good thing that before he died, a linguist named Robert L. Rankin met Kekahbah, and other surviving native speakers like Ralph Pepper and Maud McCauley Rowe; and made an extensive recordings of the three to document the language and help the Kaw Nation to develop language learning materials.

16

Lemerig

Lemerig

This is an Oceanic language that is spoken in Vanuatu, an island situated in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, which is about 1000 miles east of northern Australia. This language is not actively spoken anymore, as there are only 2 remaining speakers of the language as of 2008, making it critically endangered. Lemerig is known to consist of four different dialects and all of which are probably extinct.

15

Njerep

Njerep

A Bantoid language spoken in Nigeria, this is also once spoken in the Cameroon though it is commonly spoken near the Mambila. However, this was replaced by different Mambila dialects such as the Ba and Myop. In 2007, there are only 4 speakers left and none of them younger than 60 making it critically endangered.

14

Ongota

Ongota

Ongota is an extinct Afro-Asiatic language spoken on the west bank of the Weito River in a tiny village in southwest Ethiopia with only 6 elderly speakers. The rest of the villagers had already adopted the Tsamai language. However, unlike other extinct languages, there is a professor named Aklilu Yilma of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia who studied the language. His studies showed that Ongota follows a structure of subject, object, and verb. Ongota has features of both Afroasiatic and Nilo-Saharan as traces of these languages remained in the dialect.

13

Patwin

Patwin

This is a Native American language that is spoken in the western United States. Descendants of the Patwin tribe still live in Cortina and Colusa outside of San Francisco where there is only one documented fluent speaker as of 1997. However, Patwin language classes have been brought back in 2010 at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribal school. There is also an extensive California Indian Library Collection of the Patwin language and history research section at the Tewe Kewe Cultural Center of the Yocha Dewe Wintun Nation as of 2012.

12

Pazeh

Pazeh

This is the language of a Taiwanese aboriginal people, which originated from the Austronesian language. While there is only one remaining native speaker of the language, 96-year-old Pan Jin-yu, she was able to teach 200 regular students in Puli and a few students in Miaoli and Taichung before her death.

11

Puelche

Puelche

This is a nearly moribund language of the Puelche people in the Pampas region of Argentina. Long considered as a language isolate, there is very limited evidence that it may have been related to the Querandt of the Het people, or the Chon languages. According to Ethologue, it may still have five or six speakers, if it is not extinct yet.

10

Qawasqar

Qawasqar

This is an Alcalutan language that was spoken in southern Chile by the Kawesqar people. There were originally several distinct dialects and Kakauhua is sometimes listed as one. However, the language family containing these two languages: Qawasqar and Kakauhua, is known as Alcalufan. Nowadays, only 20 speakers remain and half of them belong to the Wellington Island, off the southern coast of Chile.

9

Tanema

Tanema

This is a critically endangered language of the island of Vanikoro, an easternmost province off of the Solomon Islands, Temotu Province, and in an Emua village. As of 2012, there is only one known speaker, Lainol Nalo, as many of those who once spoke Tanema have adapted and have started to speak Pijin or Teanu, which are popular languages of the region. Tanema is of Austronesian as well as Malayo-Polynesian, Central Eastern, and Oceanic origin.

8

Taushiro

Taushiro

An isolated language of native Peru, this is also known as Tausiro in Spanish. This is the language spoken in the region of the Tigre River and Aucayu River, a tributary of the Ahuaruna River. As of 2008, a study conducted that there is only one person who can speak the language fluently making it nearly extinct. Other native speakers, mainly from the Loreto Province and Tigre River basin, had married non-Taushiro speakers and adopted other Spanish languages.

7

Tinigua

Tinigua

This is a nearly extinct language isolate spoken in Colombia with only one remaining speaker as of 2008, living near the Guayabero River. This language originated from the Pamiqua language, which is already extinct. While originally from the Yari River, descendants of the Tinigua tribe are now living in the Meta Department between the Upper Guayabero and Yari rivers but they are no longer speaking the dialect.

6

Tolowa

Tolowa

This language is spoken by the Tolowa Native American tribe with only a few members located in the Smith River Rancheria, which is a sovereign nation near Crescent City, California. This is a part of the Pacific Coast subgroup of the Athabaskan language family with other closely-related languages such as the Roque River Athabaskan and Upper Umpqua, which forms the distinctive Oregon Athabaskan cluster within the subgroup. This is critically endangered having only one speaker left as of 2008.

5

Vilela

Vilela

An indigenous language of Argentina, this is only spoken today by a handful of elders in the Resistencia area of Argentina and in the eastern Chaco near the Paraguayan border. The remaining Vilela natives are being absorbed into the surrounding Toba people and other Spanish-speaking townsfolk. Though it is nearly an extinct language, it includes some dialects such as Ocol, Chinipi, and Sinipi, though only Ocol now survives. Some linguists consider the language as an isolate, while others linked it with other Argentinian language, Lule, into a small Lule-Vilela language family.

4

Volow

Volow

This language is spoken on the Motalava Island, which is a part of the Republic of Vanuatu. Located near the east coast of Australia, the Republic of Vanuatu is composed of indigenous Austronesian languages, which are named after the island they are spoken on though larger islands have different languages as well. Volow is nearing extinction as it has only one known native speaker as of 2008.

3

Wintu-Nomlaki

Wintu-Nomlaki

Wintu-Nomlaki is the language spoken by the Wintu tribe in California. The language is comprised of two dialects including the Nomlaki, which is spoken by the people along the Sacramento River south of Red Bluff; and Wintu. The Wintu tribe is part of the loose of people known as the Wintun or Wintuan, while others are known as Nomlaki and Patwin. Nowadays, descendants of the Wintu tribe can be found on the Round Valley Reservation, Colusa, Cortina, Grindstone Creek, Redding, and Rumsey Rancheria. Part of the Penutian language family, the Wintu-Nomlaki language is critically endangered with only one fluent speaker and several speakers with moderate command of the language as of 2008.

2

Yaghan

Yaghan

This is one of the indigenous languages of the Yagan people of Tierro del Fuego, Chile. This is considered as a language isolate although some linguists had attempted to relate it to other dialects such as the Kawesgar and Chon. Along with other Fuegian languages, this was included in the first South American languages that were recorded by European explorers and missionaries. However, as of 2005, only one native speaker remains, Cristina Calderon of Villa Ukika on Navarrino Island, Chile, who is popularly known as ‘Abuela’.

1

Yarawi

Yarawi

This Papuan language was spoken in the Morobe Province. A part of the Binanderean family of the Trans-New Guinea phylum of languages, this was most spoken during the 20th century but is now nearing extinction as natives switched to Binandere.

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