Losing Languages There are over 6,000 languages in the world today. Some experts say the majority are on the verge of disappearance. NPR's Dean Olsher considers the rapid deaths of many of the world's languages -- like Papua New Guinea's Arapesh -- and reports on the debate in the linguistic community over the need to intervene and save them.

Losing Languages

Lost and Found Sound: the Majority Worldwide Face Extinction

Losing Languages

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The Tower of Babel Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69) Nicolas Pioch at the WebMuseum hide caption

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Nicolas Pioch at the WebMuseum

Produced by Dean Olsher and Art Silverman.

More than half of the world's languages are spoken by fewer than ten-thousand people. That means as many as 90 to 95 percent of the languages could be headed toward extinction in the next century.

The languages which dominate are used in the media, and to make money. People often choose to let go of their language in favor of assimilation. Reporting for Lost and Found Sound, NPR's Dean Olsher finds experts who are split on the issue: some want language to find their own course, others want to prop up our modern-day Hi-Rise of Babel.

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