Half of PNG languages risk extinction soon

2:50 pm on 2 March 2015

One of Papua New Guinea's foremost linguists says about half of the country's 800 languages are at risk of becoming extinct in the near future.

Dr Sakarepe Kamene, who is the head of languages at the University of PNG and one of the country's longest-serving academics, says the government is not placing enough value and priority into protecting the languages.

He says increasing western influence is threatening the survival of languages, as learning English and western culture is seen as more desirable than tradition.

Dr Kamene says he fears nothing will be done until it's too late.

"These languages capture all kinds of information. So if we don't look after them, they will go and they'll [take] all this information with them, like geneaological information, historical information, traditional lifestyle information and all sorts of lifestyle information. So that's the concern."

Dr Sakarepe Kamene says Papua New Guineans are undermining their own culture and languages, and he'd like to see such things added to the school system.