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Trends in speakers of Arctic indigenous languages (1989-2006)

Year: 2010 Author: Hugo Ahlenius, GRID-Arendal & CAFF
Description:
Language not only communicates, it defines culture, nature, history, humanity, and ancestry. The indigenous languages of the Arctic have been formed and shaped in close contact with their environment. They are a valuable source of information and a wealth of knowledge on human interactions with nature is encoded in these languages. If a language is lost, a world is lost. This deep knowledge and interconnectedness is expressed in Arctic song, subsistence practices, and other cultural expressions but especially in place names across the Arctic. Place names of the indigenous peoples reflect subsistence practices, stories, dwelling sites, spawning sites, migratory routes of animals, and links to the sacred realms of the indigenous peoples of the north. From surveys it was possible to consider changes in populations for 47 languages. Of these, 36 had populations of fewer than 10,000, and 18 had population levels of 1,000 or less. Nineteen populations experienced decreases in size ranging from 5–50%, the majority of these being located in the Russian Federation. This implies either a decline in indigenous populations or alternatively a change in the methods used for census survey. The indigenous population which experienced the greatest increase in net population were the Inuit.
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