In 1929, anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir wrote: “Few people realize that within the confines of the United States there is spoken today a far greater variety of languages … than in the whole of Europe. We may go further. We may say, quite literally and safely, that in the state of California alone there are greater and more numerous linguistic extremes than can be illustrated in all the length and breadth of Europe”. Today, it is safe to narrow down Sapir’s observation even further to Northern California or even just San Francisco Bay area, one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the United States. And while Sapir was only thinking of indigenous Native American languages, we will examine linguistic diversity in terms of “heritage languages”, an umbrella term for both immigrant languages and those of Native Americans. According to the latest statistics, 181 immigrant languages are spoken in the U.S. today, with an alphabetical list runing from Adamawa Fulfulde, a Niger-Congo language spoken in Cameroon, to Zoogocho Zapotec, an Oto-Manguean indigenous to Mexico. The list of Native American languages totals 175, although most are spoken by increasingly small communities.
Read More | “Linguistic Diversity in Northern California” | Asya Pereltsvaig | GeoCurrents