Areas of the world with high levels of biodiversity also contain more linguistic and cultural diversity, researchers at Oxford University, Penn State University and Conservation International have found.
The study in the journal PNAS showed that 70% (4,824) of the world’s known languages occur in an area that is less than a quarter of the earth’s land surface. More than 4,000 languages in the world have fewer than 10,000 speakers and, of those, 2,804 are found in hotspots and high biodiversity wilderness areas, which are under threat by development and population growth.
Professor Suzanne Romaine of Oxford University’s Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics and co-author of the study, said: ‘Virtually everyone knows about the disappearance of species, but few are aware of a similar extinction crisis for languages.
‘The co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity is fortuitous in that it provides the basis for bringing together organisations and researchers focusing on biodiversity conservation and those concerned with linguistic and cultural conservation. We need to adopt a shared framework for integrating biological and linguistic conservation goals.’