Two centuries of spreading language loss

Gary F. Simons


This paper presents a visual depiction of the global spread of language loss over the past two centuries. This is done via a series of world maps (from 1795 to the present by 25-year intervals) in which each country is colored to represent the percentage of its indigenous languages that had died by that year or were doomed to die since they were no longer being used by children. A major finding is that the current rate of language loss is 9 per year, or one every 40 days – a far cry from the widely cited, “One language dies every 14 days.” Nevertheless, the rate of language loss is increasing and is on a trajectory to reach that level by the middle of the next century. An investigation of trends by world regions shows that the rate of language loss has already peaked in the Americas and Australia, remains relatively low in sub-Saharan Africa, and is accelerating sharply in the rest of the world.


endangered languages; language shift; language death; global trends

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Copyright (c) 2019 Gary F. Simons

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