An extinct language is a historical language whose speakers have died or whose speakers have been transferred to a different language ( have assimilated into another language community ).
There are several reasons for the extinction of languages. Extinct languages are distinguished from "dead" languages whose speakers are not extinct in the true sense, but the historical forerunner of today's languages are (eg, the speaker of Latin is not extinct, but have their Vulgar Latin in the course of time more and more changed until it emerged today's Romance languages. )
Michael E. Krauss is the 10th millennium BC as the approximate peak of the language diversity. Since the number of languages is first been relatively constant, and finally become smaller. Besides minor extinction events, etc. by fighting between tribes there was also before the modern era at least three more: With the spread of Latin by the expansion of the Roman Empire in Europe. Thus died about the Etruscan out in Italy. Due to the large dominance of the Aztecs and the Incas in Central and South America Nahuatl and Quechua displaced to the colonization by Spain neighboring languages.
From the beginning of European colonial period, the number of extinct and endangered languages rose sharply. Indigenous languages have been increasingly replaced by European languages , such as the English in North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the Spanish in Central and South America, the Portuguese in Brazil, the French in Canada and the Russian in Siberia.
A historic speech displacement is south Africa adopted the Sahara. Here are the Bantu languages have replaced older languages often. In North Africa, it was again the Arabic, the previous languages, including the important cultural language of Coptic repressed.
Another area with a high number of endangered languages of New Guinea. Due to the geographical isolation of individual strains of the island's interior had a very high density voice. Of the approximately 1,000 languages , the majority is threatened with extinction.
On the basis of existing records is attempted from time to time to revive a dead language. An example is Manx that is taught on the Isle of Man in the school and (as of 2005 ) again has 28 native speakers. Another example is Cornish ( Kernewek ), 1777 extinct, that can speak 300 people again.
The only successfully revived on a large scale language is Hebrew, the long time existed only as a literary language and the liturgical language. Hebrew is now considered Ivrit ( Modern Hebrew ) official language in Israel.
It is controversial in linguistics, how these revived languages are actually the same, as there has been a break in the natural transmission of language from generation to generation and it is likely therefore that not all aspects and nuances of the original language in the grammar and the vocabulary of the revived version have to be included.