When is a language considered dead? Top-to-bottom language death: when language shift begins in a high-level environment such as the government. Speakers of some languages, particularly regional or minority languages, may decide to abandon them based on economic or utilitarian grounds, in favor of languages regarded as having greater utility what is language change pdf prestige.
A language is often declared to be dead even before the last native speaker of the language has died. If there are only a few elderly speakers of a language remaining, and they no longer use that language for communication, then the language is effectively dead. A language that has reached such a reduced stage of use is generally considered moribund. Half of the spoken languages of the world are not being taught to new generations of children.
Once a language is no longer a native language—that is, if no children are being socialized into it as their primary language—the process of transmission is ended and the language itself will not survive past the current generation. Language death is rarely a sudden event, but a slow process of each generation learning less and less of the language, until its use is relegated to the domain of traditional use, such as in poetry and song. Typically the transmission of the language from adults to children becomes more and more restricted, to the final setting that adults speaking the language will raise children who never acquire fluency. Often speakers replace elements of their own language with something from the language they are shifting toward. Also, if their heritage language has an element that the new language does not, speakers may drop it. Language revitalization is an attempt to slow or reverse language death. Revitalization programs are ongoing in many languages, and have had varying degrees of success.