Less than five percent of current world languages are in use online, according to a recent study by prominent linguist AndrÃ¡s Kornai — and the Internet may be helping the other 95 percent to their graves.
Those startling conclusions come from a paper published in the journal PLOSOne in October titled, appropriately, “Digital Language Death.” The study sought to answer a question that’s both inherently fascinating and little-discussed: How many languages exist online? (And, on the flip side, how many don’t?)
For reference, at least 7,776 languages are in use in the greater offline world. To measure how many of those are also in use on the Internet, Kornai designed a program to crawl top-level Web domains and catalog the number of words in each language. He also analyzed Wikipedia pages, a key marker of a language’s digital vibrancy, as well as language options for things like operating systems and spell-checkers.