In The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell argued that ‘Economic growth has become the secular religion of advancing industrial societies. We are all taught the benefits of economic development – namely economic growth which brings with it the rise of living standards, greater opportunities and social mobility and conditions for democracy to flourish.
Economic development, however, also has its negative side-effects, such as resource depletion and environmental damage. Scientists now claim that development is even precipitating the extinction of some languages! Research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B have suggested that 25% of languages around the world are under threat, with minority languages in developed areas such as North America, Europe and Australia most susceptible.
Cambridge’s Tatsuya Amana has explained the drivers of this phenomenon, suggesting:
‘‘As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation’s political and educational spheres’’ and ‘’People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold – economically and politically.”
The threat of language extinction is one that affects us all, and Economists, HSPS, Linguists, Modern Languages, and Archaeology and Anthropology students should take note of how linguistic diversity is now being shaped by policy and economic realities.