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World's 18 most endangered spoken languages

The UN Atlas of Endangered Languages lists 18 languages with only one remaining speaker. With about one language disappearing every two weeks, some of these have probably already died off.

By Leigh Montgomery and Elizabeth RyanStaff / April 27, 2010



The following 18 languages were last known to have one remaining speaker. They are the most at-risk languages on a list of 199 classified in the United Nations Atlas of Endangered Languages as critically endangered, meaning they have fewer than 10 documented speakers.

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Regions with the most linguistic diversity also tend to have the most endangered languages.

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1. Apiaka is spoken by the indigenous people of the same name who live in the northern state of Mato Grosso in Brazil. The critically endangered language belongs to the Tupi language family. As of 2007, there was one remaining speaker.

2. Bikya is spoken in the North-West Region of Cameroon, in western Africa. The last record of a speaker was in 1986, meaning the language could now be extinct. This predicament resembles that of another Cameroon language, Bishuo, whose last recorded speaker was also in 1986.

3. Chana is spoken in Parana, the capital of Argentina's province of Entre Rios. As of 2008, it had only one speaker.

4. Dampal is spoken in Indonesia, near Bangkir. Unesco reported that it had one speaker as of 2000.

5. Diahoi (also known as Jiahui, Jahoi, Djahui, Diahkoi, and Diarroi) is spoken in Brazil. Those who speak it live on the indigenous lands Diahui, Middle Madeira river, Southern Amazonas State, Municipality of Humaita. As of 2006, one speaker was left.

6. Kaixana is a language of Brazil. As of 2008, the sole remaining speaker was believed to be 78-year-old Raimundo Avelino, who lives in Limoeiro in the Japura municipality in the state of Amazonas.

7. Laua is spoken in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea. It is part of the Mailuan language group and is nearly extinct, with one speaker documented in 2000.

8. Patwin is a Native American language spoken in the western United States. Descendants live outside San Francisco in Cortina and Colusa, Calif. There was one fluent speaker documented as of 1997.

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