How does COVID-19 threaten endangered languages?

June 11, 2020 ||
Palm trees next to the shoreline of a tropical ocean.

Image by Charlene Sprong.

Endangered languages often exist in a situation where they have a dwindling group of mostly older speakers, and their community may be marginalized or otherwise not valued and supported. Because of this already precarious situation, the loss of life among that final group of speakers brings a double tragedy: loss of loved ones, and also loss of speaker community. In this way, endangered languages are often disproportionately impacted by natural disasters, war, or pandemics. If the community suffers the loss of its members due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the language they speak faces a higher threat of extinction.

Linguist Anvita Abbi discusses this problem as it impacts the Great Andamanese language family on South Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal. Read her article here.

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