An indigenous language dies on average once every two weeks, reports Survival on International Mother Language Day (21 February).
Five thousand of the world’s six thousand languages are indigenous, and the majority of those threatened with extinction are indigenous languages.
The Akuntsu tribe of northern Brazil, for example, were first contacted by a Brazilian government team in 1995. They number only six people, who saw the rest of their tribe massacred in the 1970s and 1980s by ranchers who wanted their land. Nobody else speaks the Akuntsu language, and it is likely that it will disappear forever along with the tribe.
There are over a hundred uncontacted tribes worldwide, and their languages are among the most endangered. Survival believes that many uncontacted tribes are under serious threat of extinction within the next twenty years.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Every time another tribe becomes extinct and their language dies, another way of life and another way of understanding the world disappears forever. Even if it has been painstakingly studied and recorded, a language without a people to speak it means little. A language can only live if its people live, and if today’s uncontacted tribes are to have a future, we must respect their right to choose their own way of life.’
The UN has proclaimed 2008 ‘International Year of Languages’.
Watch Survival’s short film ‘Uncontacted Tribes’, featuring the Akuntsu
For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]