Minority languages in Turkey dying out

Of the world’s thousands of language in danger of extinction by the end of the century, 15 of them are dying out in Turkey, a new UNESCO publication says.
The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger lists languages whose survival is unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered — or already extinct. A total of 18 languages from Turkey made the list: three already extinct, four unsafe, seven definitely endangered, three severely endangered and one critically endangered.

“Languages are humankind’s principal tools for interacting and for expressing ideas, emotions, knowledge, memories and values. Languages are also primary vehicles of cultural expressions and intangible cultural heritage, essential to the identity of individuals and groups. Safeguarding endangered languages is thus a crucial task in maintaining cultural diversity worldwide,” UNESCO says in its report.

UNESCO runs safeguarding projects for languages in various countries, but no such programs are active in Turkey, where the official treatment of minority languages and cultures is subject to controversy due to politics, nationalism and separatism. One widely used minority language, Kurdish, recently received a boost when a state television station launched a channel broadcasting exclusively in Kurmanji Kurdish, giving hope to speakers of other widely used minority languages in Turkey such as Arabic and Syriac. But the future does not look so bright for less commonly used languages such as Zazaki.

Released last week, UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is based on the work of over 30 linguists and intends to “raise awareness about language endangerment and the need to safeguard the world’s linguistic diversity.”

Turkey languages facing danger

Unsafe: Abkhaz, Adyge, Zazaki, Kabard-Cherkes
Definitely endangered: Abaza, Homshetsma, Laz, Pontus Greek, Romani, Suret, Western Armenian
Severely endangered: Assyrian, Gagavuz, Ladino
Critically endangered: Hértevin
Extinct: Cappadocian Greek, Mlahso, Ubykh.