Terralingua’s Index of Linguistic Diversity on National Geographic News Watch

David Braun of National Geographic News Watch interviewed Luisa Maffi,David Harmon, and Jonathan Loh about the new Index of Linguistic Diversity.

“For the past several years, we had been hearing anecdotal reports about endangered languages–how we’re losing languages by the day, how we may lose 50-90 percent of languages before the end of the century. But nobody had any reliable quantitative data to corroborate these claims,” says Luisa Maffi, co-founder and director of Terralingua, an international NGO devoted to sustaining the biocultural diversity of life through research, education, policy, and on-the-ground work.”But now a new Index of Linguistic Diversity (ILD), the first of its kind, shows quantitatively, for the first time, what’s really happening with the world’s languages,” Maffi adds. “The ILD shows in quantitatively rigorous ways what the trends have been over the past 30 years in the numbers of mother-tongue speakers of the world’s languages–and the news is not good: an overall decline of more than 20 percent in that period alone.” 

Harmon, of the George Wright Society/Terralingua, and Loh, of theZoological Society of London/Terralingua, are the co-authors of a paper, Index of Linguistic Diversity, published in the journal Language Documentation & Conservation, Volume 4 of 2010. Their work was underwritten by The Christensen Fund, a nonprofit which supports National Geographic News coverage of biocultural diversity issues.

Braun: What is language diversity, and why are we potentially on the brink of a mass extinction of languages?

to view the  article visit: http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2011/03/language-diversity-index-tracks-global-loss-of-mother-tongues.html