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Preserving Cultural Diversity by Protecting the World's Endangered Languages

One third of the approximately 7,000 languages still spoken in the world today will become extinct over the course of the next few decades.

According to pessimistic estimates, up to 90% of today's living languages will die out within this century. Languages and dialects are not only the means through which we communicate with others and seek ways of explaining the world in which we live, they are also expressions of human culture and the human mind itself. They are of value in and of themselves and should be preserved and documented as manifestations of the creativity and diversity of the human mind.

In the last twenty years this global development has been recognized and brought onto the stage not only by academics, but more and more by language communities themselves throughout the world. Facilitated by the new media, a global discussion has emerged about the effects of the loss of indigenous languages and in turn the loss of cultural knowledge and practices.

This plenary presents insights and experiences on language maintenance efforts worldwide. Topics include capacity-building at various formal and informal levels; the promotion of multilingualism by strengthening local languages; the kind of knowledge in danger of disappearing when whole systems of expression vanish; responses to this loss by language activists.

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