The answer to a number of centuries-old questions about nature, human migration, inventions, and environmental change lies in rare and indigenous languages, but UN statistics warn that small languages are gradually becoming extinct and that their valuable knowledge of Earth history is also disappearing.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about 40% of the world’s 7,000 languages are in danger of extinction in the next century or two. are. The disappearance of these languages means the destruction of valuable information on lesser-known and mysterious issues that have been gained through the observations of several generations.
“Every language contains signs that help us understand people, but until you read them, you will not be able to access their information,” says Nicholas Evans, a linguist and professor at the Australian National University. »
Many languages are on the verge of extinction, including Kayardild, which is spoken by Indigenous Australians and is spoken fluently by less than 10 people, according to Wikipedia. This language and other indigenous languages of Australia were forgotten because of British colonization, and Indigenous peoples were no longer able to pass on their knowledge of natural and environmental patterns to future generations.
By studying smaller languages, anthropologists can trace patterns of speech development and fill in gaps in history. For example, they can understand how humans migrated between islands, and by tracing words related to navigation, they can trace the origins of technologies such as the kano (a small, narrow boat).
Trying to preserve small languages on an individual level is an opportunity to regain lost identity and share cultural honors. In Hawaii, for example, where some schools are run jointly by native Hawaiians and the state government, the number of fluent Hawaiian خانlelo (lolelo) households increased from just a few tens to 24,000 between 1985 and 2010.