Language extinction

In a recent email to me and Le Falcon, blog founder VThunderlad included this link:

VThunderlad commented on the way the link includes an abstract of the article.

Le Falcon replied:

I saw a diagram (along these lines) of two triangles.
One has the point up; the other has the point down.
The first represents world population;
the second represents world languages.

It was a striking graphic depiction of this inverse
relation  :  how most
languages on Earth have very small speech communities;
while a small handful have enormous speech communities.

Here’s an example of such a diagram.  I’d have embedded it here, but it’s a bitmap file, which this site does not support. 

VThunderlad went on to wonder whether it really makes sense to see the fact that so many languages are faced with extinction as a moral issue in and of itself.  I replied that I thought it does.  When a language goes extinct, it becomes that much more difficult for a community to understand its ancestors.  A break in communication between one generation and another may sometimes be necessary, but is never costless.  Language extinction is the result of political and economic policies that people can either support or oppose; therefore, when we decide what our stand will be on those policies, their likely impact on endangered languages should be one of the considerations we take into account.

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