Language endangerment and linguistic rights in the Himalayas: a case study from Nepal
According to even the most conservative estimates, at least half of the world's 6500 languages are expected to become extinct in the next century. While the documentation of endangered languages has traditionally been the domain of academic linguists and anthropologists, international awareness of this impending linguistic catastrophe is growing, and development organizations are becoming involved in the struggle to preserve spoken forms. The death of a language marks the loss of yet another piece of cultural uniqueness from the mosaic of our diverse planet, and is therefore a tragedy for the heritage of all humanity. Language death is often compared to species extinction, and the same metaphors of preservation and diversity can be invoked to canvas support for biodiversity and language preservation programs. The present article addresses language endangerment in the Himalayas, with a focus on Nepal, and presents the options and challenges for linguistic development in this mountainous region.