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Jakarta Post

Almost 140 local languages on brink of extinction

  • Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung   /   Tue, August 2, 2016   /  09:04 pm
Almost 140 local languages on brink of extinction Two performers show off the main dictionary of Sundanese on the sidelines of the Archipelago Local Language Congress in Bandung on Tuesday. The dictionary, composed by a team of 80, records at least 150,000 Sundanese words found in Sundanese publications from the last century. (The Jakarta Post/Arya Dipa)

Almost 140 local languages in Indonesia are on the brink of extinction because they are no longer used, said Dadang Sunendar, the head of language development at the Culture and Education Ministry. 

The language body has recorded 15 extinct local languages in Indonesia. "We have documented 659 local languages spread throughout 2,348 places across Indonesia. As many as 617 local languages have been verified and mapped out by the body.

Among those languages, 139 are on the brink of extinction or have had their status downgraded, said Dadang during the opening of the Archipelago Local Language Congress on Tuesday.

Indonesia is a country that has the second largest number of local languages in the world.

According to Ethnologue, a catalogue of languages in the world, Indonesia has 707 languages.

The country with the most number of languages is Papua New Guinea, with 839.   

A language is considered "alive" if the language is still spoken at least by one native speaker.

Dadang said the geographical spread of the almost-extinct languages was as follows: Kalimantan (1), Maluku ( 22 ), Papua and Halmahera ( 67 ), Sulawesi ( 36 ), Sumatra (2), Timor-Flores, Bima and Sumbawa in East Nusa Tenggara ( 11 ).

Factors that influence a language’s decline are, among others, the decreasing number of speakers, war, major natural disasters, mixed marriages and geographical conditions.

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