The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) supports efforts to mitigate or curtail language loss resulting from climate change and global warming. LSA is especially concerned about the effects of accelerating climate change on the survival and distribution of endangered languages and dialects. Most of the world's nearly 7000 languages are endangered (the degree of endangerment ranging from 27.6% of all indigenous languages in Africa to 100% of all indigenous languages in the Americas and Australia), and many more will become endangered or extinct without further intervention. Significant numbers of these languages are spoken by relatively small numbers of speakers living in or near geographic areas most threatened by events linked to pernicious climatic conditions: rising coastlines, melting glaciers, tropical and other forests increasingly prone to fires, and islands experiencing a surge in high category tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.

While large numbers of languages have become extinct or now face extinction due to historical or socio-cultural forces, successful efforts have been made to legitimize and support the use of underrepresented or denigrated languages and dialects. As linguistic scientists, we also stand with our colleagues in archaeology and anthropology, ecology, botany, biology, and other fields, in their efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change. We further support efforts to strongly advocate for vigorous interventions and public funding necessary to prevent the further devastation of environmentally-vulnerable languages.

These efforts should include a variety of approaches, such as:

  • interdisciplinary programs offering university-level coursework in methods and principles of the preservation and ultimately restoration of languages, coinciding with rigorous measurements of the success of such interventions past and present;
  • targeted research funding, preferably through public-private partnerships with both national and local efforts, to support the development and examination of best practices in mitigation as well as field work in the preservation and reestablishment of climate-threatened and other endangered languages;
  • partnerships with institutional associations, and with groups in existing organizations, academic or otherwise, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists or UNESCO’s International Conference on Environment and Society; and
  • public and media outreach, including awareness campaigns focused on the education and potential support of businesses, industry, government, and foundations, as well as mobilization of the local persons whose own languages and cultures are threatened.  

 

Approved by the LSA Executive Committee, January 31, 2018