In <四成少数民族语言临危,> Wang Bo at Chinanews.com reports that up to four of ten languages native to minorities in China are threatened with extinction.
Here are a few numbers that appear in the report:
- Non-han languages: 55 officially designated “peoples” (民族) speak an estimated 130 languages
- Scripts in use: 40, including Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Korean, Yi, Dai, Lahu, Jingpo and Xibe
- Populations: one-half of non-Han languages are spoken by groups that number under 10,000 members, of which 20+ have 1,000 speakers or less
- Endangered languages: Manchu, Tatar, She, Hezhen can no longer be used for conversation; another 20 percent, such as Nu, Yilao, Pumi and Jinuo are approaching that state; and a total of 40 percent are in danger of extinction in the mid-term.
- Manchu: 11 million ethnic Manchus, but only 100 or so can speak fluently and less than a dozen read and write well.
- Jing (京族): with a population of 20,000 in Guangxi, one-half can still speak their mother tongue.
Wang Bo notes that fluency in seven non-Han languages continues to be passed on to the next generation fairly well: Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, Kazakh, Korean, Zhuang and Yi. He attributes this partly to the fact that they have a written script, and interpreting services are often offered at official meetings.
What he doesn’t note—like many PRC-centric writers—is the fact that except for Zhuang and Yi, these other languages are spoken and written by large numbers of native speakers outside China.