Lexicon Valley: What We Lose When a Language Goes Extinct

A show about the mysteries of English.
July 9 2012 7:06 PM

Should We Care When a Language Dies?

Listen to Slate’s show about what we stand to lose when a language goes extinct.

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Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode 16: Our Dying Words

By some estimates, approximately half of all languages currently alive on Earth will become extinct during this century. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000-plus tongues, many spoken by only tens or hundreds of people. But what exactly do we lose when a language dies without ever having been documented? Is it equivalent to, say, species extinction? Listen as Bob Garfield and I discuss the race to preserve what is arguably humanity’s most impressive achievement.

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You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

Send your thoughts about the show to slatelexiconvalley@gmail.com.