Munduko hizkuntzak - informazio orokorra

General information

Language is the system used by a community to communicate through words. However, not only to communicate, but also languages help to build one's identity and make us feel part of a community.

Although there are more than 7,000 languages in the world today, some languages have been lost throughout history and many others are on the verge of extinction. It is said that a language disappears every two weeks and it is predicted that by the end of the century half of all languages will be lost.

From the UNESCO Chair of World Linguistic Heritage of the UPV/EHU we want to make this linguistic diversity known, as well as to make known endangered or endangered languages. Therefore, in this section you will find information about the languages of the world.

In the following PDF you will find a map with the different languages spoken in Europe.


Category of languages

There are several ways of categorizing languages, but here we will show you the one that UNESCO offers in terms of their vulnerability. The following levels are used to indicate the status of endangered languages:

  • Vulnerable: Most children speak, but may not have sufficient presence in some language domains.
  • At risk: Most children do not learn as a home language.
  • Severe risk: Grandparents speak and previous generations; those of the parents' generation may understand the language, but do not speak among themselves or with the children.
  • Critical risk: Most speakers are of the grandparents' generation, who also speak half-heartedly.
  • Extinct: The language has no speakers.

Unesco created in 1996 an atlas of endangered and threatened languages of the world. Over the years, they have been acquiring more data and creating new editions with updated information. In addition to the location of endangered languages, this atlas uses the above categories to classify languages: vulnerable-white; endangered-yellow; severely endangered-orange; critically endangered-red; and extinct-black.

In addition to the online atlas, they have now also created an interactive map with the most up-to-date information on the languages. It also has a tool to compare several languages at the same time.

Atlas of the world's endangered languages (PDF):

Interactive atlas:


Indigenous languages

Although indigenous communities represent about 6% of the world's population, they speak more than 4,000 languages. Indigenous languages are fundamental to the identity of these communities, as they are systems for expressing their cultures, concepts and ideas. Thus, when an indigenous language dies, a part of the world's knowledge disappears with it. For example, many indigenous communities have an interesting vision of languages, according to which the protection of languages and biodiversity are intimately linked.

These communities undertake all kinds of initiatives to try to keep the language alive. For example, using the tools offered by digitalization, they are increasing their presence on the Internet, making the resources generated in indigenous languages available to all.

UNESCO has declared the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032. In this section you will find more information about it.