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Atlas shows dying languages

SOME 2,500 of the approximately 6,000 languages used around the planet today are in danger of disappearing, a team of linguists said yesterday as they unveiled an online atlas of those that are endangered.

The atlas says 200 languages have become extinct in the past three generations and 199 languages have fewer than 10 speakers left.

Among those recently classified as extinct is Eyak, whose last speaker died in Alaska last year.

The atlas "is interactive, ongoing, open-ended," the atlas' editor in chief, Australian linguist Christopher Moseley, told a Paris news conference.

The atlas invites users to contribute and update, and allows users to search according to country, degree of endangerment, name of languages or by number of speakers.

The atlas is UNESCO's third that lists disappearing languages and is the first one put online.

The number of endangered languages has grown sharply this time.

Languages are disappearing in every region of the world, from the United States to France and sub-Saharan Africa.

Moseley told journalists the atlas aims to revive linguistic appreciation.

"We hope a project like this one will encourage people everywhere in the world to take an interest in their vital linguistic heritage," he said.


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