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We're talking about languages spoken by small groups of people. In some cases just a few thousand, or even as few as 15 people, according to linguist Pieter Muysken from the University of Nijmegen. He is doing research in Bolivia, where there are 34 languages still left. But he expects most of them will disappear in the near future. The languages are not being passed on to the next generation. But, you might ask yourself, if a language is spoken by so few people anyway, is that really such a tragedy?
People regard their language as part of their identity. Mr Muysken:
"Most people think of the idea that their language could disappear as a disaster. If they don't succeed in keeping their language alive, they experience it as a serious loss to have to give it up. A loss, a disaster. Or even a punishment by higher powers."
Mr Muysken quotes a Bolivian man talking about his language, Uru: "Losing our language is a punishment that is accompanied by the disappearance of magical help and the gift of prophecy." He thought if his people could no longer speak Uru, they would lose their magical powers.
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