One Language Disappears Every 14 Days

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


This is astounding news.

One of the world’s 7,000 distinct languages disappears every 14 days, an extinction rate exceeding that of birds, mammals or plants, researchers said Tuesday.

At least 20% of the world’s languages are in imminent danger of becoming extinct as their last speakers die off, compared with about 18% of mammals, 8% of plants and 5% of birds….

Half of the world’s languages have disappeared in the last 500 years, and half of the remainder are likely to vanish during this century…

Fantastic quote from K. David Harrison, the expert on languages that is cited in the article: “When we lose a language, we lose centuries of thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday.” Harrison works at something called the “Institute for Endangered Languages.” Check that out here.

The folks there have identified the areas in the world where the most languages are going extinct, and it turns out one such hotspot is in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Click the link for more.

Update: Should have linked this earlier. Here’s Mother Jonesrecent cover story on animal extinction.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest