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Dynamique des langues et variations linguistiques

Why are so many languages spoken in some places and so few in others? (The Conversation)

Last Updated: 4 Oct 2019

15 août 2019, 13:14 CEST - By , Ph.D. Student in Ecology, Universidade Federal de Goias and , Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University. Photo : A grid map of language ranges in North America prior to European contact. Coelho et al. RSPB 2019, CC BY

People across the world describe their thoughts and emotions, share experiences and spread ideas through the use of thousands of distinct languages. These languages form a fundamental part of our humanity. They determine whom we communicate with and how we express ourselves.

Despite continually mapping the distribution of languages across the world, scientists have few clear answers about what caused the emergence of thousands of languages. Collectively, human beings speak more than 7,000 distinct languages, and these languages are not uniformly distributed across the planet. For example, far more languages are spoken in tropical regions than in temperate areas.

But why are there so many languages spoken in some places and so few in others?