Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Languages spoken only as second languages.
Question: My psychology professor stated that of the 200+ languages spoken in the USA; 176 are living languages, “3 are second languages without mother tongue speakers” and 52 are extinct. When I asked her which three were second languages only, she didn’t know the answer and challenged me to find out. I’ve spent the past day and a half searching the web and I’m still stumped. Please help.
Reply: Probably the best data would be the U.S. Census, however I suspect the "second languages without mother tongues" are liturgical language like Ecclesiastical Latin (Catholic Church). They are used in religious services and some people can converse /write with them, but there are really no native speakers Other liturgical languages include Coptic, Sanskrit and archaic forms of other various languages. Wikipedia has a list at Some languages may be used in services only, but others may be more widely used by educated speakers. Unfortunately, there are some Native American languages which are falling into this class. Many languages have died out, meaning there are few or no active native speakers. However, many communities are trying to revive their languages but a few may be revived as liturgical languages (i.e. they are used in certain ceremonies). Another class could be artificial languages like Klingon. Esperanto used to be one such language, but there are parents who are raising their children in Esperanto because its the common family language.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 25-Oct-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Languages spoken only as second languages.    Susan D Fischer     (25-Oct-2013)
  2. Re: Languages spoken only as second languages.    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (26-Oct-2013)
  3. Re: Languages spoken only as second languages.    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (26-Oct-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions