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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Endangered Languages: Middle East

About Endangered Languages

Why So Important?

  • Language extinction is not new — however, languages are becoming extinct today at an alarming rate. 

How Do Languages Become Endangered?

  •  A language starts to become endangered when intergenerational transmission begins to decrease (i.e. the language ceases to be passed on to children as a first language). As older generations of speakers pass away, fewer and fewer people are left who speak the language.


United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

UNESCO provide a classification system to show just how 'in trouble' the language is:

  • Vulnerable - most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)
  • Definitely endangered - children no longer learn the language as a 'mother tongue' in the home
  • Severely endangered - language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves
  • Critically endangered - the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently
  • Extinct - there are no speakers left

List of Endangered Languages