Global economic success and growth have at least one unfortunate and unexpected consequence, researchers say; the increasing rate of the extinction of minority languages.

Twenty-five percent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken around the world are threatened or endangered, researchers say, with the final loss of a different language happening every few weeks.

Examples are the Eyak language in Alaska, whose last speaker died in 2008, or Turkey's Ubykh, whose last fluent speaker died in 1992, study leader Tatsuya Amano of Britain's Cambridge University says.

Looking at the rate of language loss, the researchers found hotspots of language extinction correlated with areas of the world undergoing rapid economic growth.

"As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres," Amano says. "People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risked being left out in the cold -- economically and politically."

Dominant languages such as English or Mandarin Chinese are often seen as a pathway to upward mobility in business or education, he points out, and economic assistance from dominant cultures often encourages recipients to speak those dominant languages.

"We found that at the global scale, language speaker declines are strongly linked to economic growth -- that is, declines are particularly occurring in economically developed regions," Amano says.

Certain regions of the world are likely to see rapid losses of minority languages, Amano says. The tropics and Himalayan regions in particular face threats because they possess numerous local indigenous languages with very small numbers of speakers while the regions are also seeing rapid economic growth.

There is one possible bright spot in the midst of disappearing languages, Amano suggests, and that's a concurrent rise in bilingualism.

Previous Cambridge research has suggested children who have command of more than one language enjoy advantages in education, social interaction and cognition.

"As economies develop, there is increasing advantage in learning international languages such as English, but people can still speak their historically traditional languages," Amano says.

"Encouraging those bilingualisms will be critical to preserving linguistic diversity," he adds.

The loss of language, as a global problem, is garnering global attention, with the United Nations and other international organizations actively involved in language conservations efforts.

"Of course everyone has the right to choose the language they speak, but preserving dying language is important to maintaining human cultural diversity in an increasingly globalized world," Amano says.

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