Why study a vanishing language? Linguist Jonathan Bobaljik says scientists want to document languages to learn more about their diversity and the patterns that are surprisingly common to all. Of the world’s 7,000 or so languages, 50 to 90 percent are in danger of extinction in the next 100 years.
“We go out literally to the ends of the earth and try to document languages as different as possible, to see if the patterns that we are familiar with are in these far-flung languages,” he says.
“We need to document this rich variety as quickly as possible, before it disappears.”