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ISTANBUL - Three languages in Turkey have slipped into extinction and 15 more are on the endangered list. The latest edition of the "Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger," published by The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has shown that 15 languages in Turkey are in danger of becoming extinct.
According to research carried out by UNESCO on International Mother Language Day on Feb.21, half of the 6,700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends. The recent publication of the "Atlas of the World’s languages in Danger" aims to encourage governments and speaker communities to take action in order to slow the process at which these languages are disappearing.
In the Atlas, UNESCO explained the rate of language endangerment in five different categories, unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct. The Atlas showed that while 15 languages in Turkey were in danger, three had become completely extinct. The extinct languages include Cappadocian Greek, which is extinct in Turkey and critically endangered worldwide, Mlahso, a language spoken in the Lice district of the eastern province Diyarbakır, which became extinct when its last speaker died in 1995. And Ubykh was lost with the death of its last registered speaker in 1992. Four languages in Turkey were categorized as unsafe: Zazaki, Abkhaz, Adyge, and Kabard-Cherkes. Definitely endangered are: Abaza, Homshetsma, Laz, Pontus Greek, Romani, Suret and Western Armenian. Three languages were classed as severely endangered: Gagavuz, Assyrian and Ladino. Hrtevin is the one language in Turkey that is critically endangered. It used to be spoken in the province of Siirt in the southeast of Turkey.
UNESCO Director-General Ko?chiro Matsuura said: "The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it, from poems and legends to proverbs and jokes."
As there are no current language protection programs in Turkey, UNESCO has urged the country to start running safe guard projects by including these endangered languages in culture, education, communication and science.