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Language death is the steady decline in use of a certain language to the point where no native speakers remain. This type of language extinction is a linguistic phenomena that can have several causes, such as colonialism or intermingling among speakers of different languages. A certain ethnic group's primary regional language can be abandoned gradually as many group members learn and use a different language in day-to-day life. Language death can also result from a nation's shift from one language to another for use in areas such as government or commerce. A verifiable case of language extinction is often an area of interest to some scholars who study issues such as linguistic imperialism and globalization.
Glottophagy and linguicide are terms occasionally assigned to language death that is imposed on a population of speakers involuntarily. This kind of sudden and radical language shift can happen when one ethnic group settles and colonizes another country usually for economic opportunities. Native inhabitants of a colonized nation are frequently required to give up their primary language and traditions in order to assimilate with the new arrivals. Some native speakers in this situation choose to voluntarily adopt the colonizers' language in the name of practicality. These circumstances often raise questions of ethnocentrism and linguistic rights.
Some forms of language death can be more gradual due to trends in international exchanges. As certain languages are adopted as the official ones of diplomacy and trade, less common regional languages can diminish in perceived importance. One significant trait of a language in decline is a lack of lessons in the primary native language in schools. Many linguists agree that when the children of a certain country do not learn the native tongue of their ethic origins, that language is at a much higher risk of dying out. This type of linguistic extinction can sometimes lead to reverse trends of language revitalization in a few select cases.
Scholars sometimes point to implications of language death, such as diminished senses of ethnic identity among speakers. Language extinction is considered official when only a small number of fluent speakers remain in the older generations of a certain ethnic group. Attempts to prevent further language death are also sometimes subject to debate. Some language experts stress the importance of preserving cultural identity, while others argue that failure to adopt a more widespread secondary language will hold certain communities back from economic and social progress.