Disappearing Words

Listen / Download

The influential MIT linguist Kenneth Hale once compared losing a language to dropping a bomb on a museum. And yet it is happening, all the time.

Every month, somewhere on the globe, two languages go silent. Everywhere from South Dakota to South America, Australia to Alaska when the last speaker of a language dies, the history and the culture and the memory of that language goes with them.

Most linguists agree that globalization, assimilation, disease, and natural disaster all play a role in wiping out languages. And while no one thinks there’s an easy fix for this problem — some people are dedicating their lives to reversing this trend and trying to keep languages alive.


Nicholas Ostler, author of “Empires of the Word” and
founder of The Foundation for Endangered Languages

Linda Harvey, Urban Programs Coordinator at Yukon Native Language Center, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada;Charon Asetoyer, Founder and Executive Director of the Founder and Executive Director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center