chapter  6
Endangered Native American Languages: What Is to Be Done, and Why?
Pages 16

The threat to linguistic resources is now recognized as a worldwide crisis. According to Krauss (1992b), as many as half of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken on earth are "moribund"; that is, they are spoken only by adults who no longer teach them to the next generation. An additional 40% may soon be threatened because the number of children learning them is declining measurably. In other words, 90% of existing languages today are likely to die or become seriously embattled within the next century. That leaves only about 600 languages, 10% of the world's total, that remain relatively secure--for now. This assessment is confirmed, with and without such detailed estimates, by linguists reporting the decline of languages on a global scale, but especially in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia (Brenzinger, 1992; Robins & Uhlenbeck, 1991; Schmidt, 1990).