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Vanishing act

February 17, 2011

Germany's regional dialects and languages have fewer and fewer speakers, according to UNESCO. On Thursday they released a list of 13 languages spoken in Germany that they say are at risk of disappearing.

A bilingual German-Sorbian sign for the city of Cottbus
Sorbs live in eastern Germany - their language is under threatImage: SN

Thirteen regional and minority languages in Germany are at risk of disappearing, the country's UNESCO commission said Thursday.

Two northern German dialects - Saterland Frisian and North Frisian - were listed by the United Nation's cultural protection organization as the country's most threatened. The Lower Saxon dialect spoken in northern Germany was also reported to be "threatened."

UNESCO also said Bavaria's Austro-Bavarian and East Franconian dialects were at risk. Other dialects spoken in the Moselle and Rhine regions made the list, as did the western Alemannic and Limburgish dialects, and Sorbian - a slavic language spoken in eastern Germany.

Additionally, the Jutlandic dialect of Danish, spoken in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, was also declared threatened, as were Yiddish and Romani - the language of Roma and Sinti.

UNESCO published its list in advance of UNESCO's International Mother Language Day, to take place February 21. The organization said that half of the world's approximately 6,000 languages were threatened, with a different language becoming extinct on average every two weeks.

Reasons for languages to become extinct ranged from war and stigmatization to influence of other languages and migration.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, dpa, epd)

Editor: Andreas Illmer