Manx, Aasax, Ubykh, Eyak: Once spoken in, respectively, the Isle of Man, Tanzania, Turkey, and Alaska, all four languages have died out in the last 35 years. Of the 6,000 or so languages still heard in the world, about 2,500 are at risk, and 199 have fewer than 10 speakers left, according to Unesco.
You can get a world of very cool detail about these languages-at-risk via the Atlas. You can search by name, country or area, or level of vitality (unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered, and extinct). Each search takes you to a Google map with balloons that mark the epicenter of each language and, when clicked, give you virtual notecards with intriguing or depressing facts about the language. There’s also space to add your own expertise.
Good news for Anglophones: We’re not the problem, at least not entirely, according to the Atlas’s editor-in-chief, an Australian linguist named Chrisopher Moseley. â€œIt would be naÃ¯ve and oversimplifying to say that the big ex-colonial languages, English or French or Spanish, are the killers, and all smaller languages are the victims,â€ Mr. Moseley says in a UNESCO news release. â€œIt is not like that; there is a subtle interplay of forces, and this atlas will help ordinary people to understand those forces better.â€
Don’t forget International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21.