Almost everyone in Wales will speak Welsh in 300 years, according to New Zealand scientists

Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Almost everyone in Wales will be able to speak Welsh within the next 300 years and half the population will be proficient by 2200.

That’s according to scientists from New Zealand who have been modelling how vulnerable languages are to extinction and say Welsh is in no danger of dying out.

The language, which was declared “dead” by the Times newspaper as far back as 1866, is currently spoken by around 20% of the population according to the 2011 Census.

Researchers at Canterbury University in New Zealand however, looked at the trajectory of two vulnerable languages – Welsh and Maori – to see if they could predict which would survive.

And over 74% of the population will be proficient Welsh speakers by the year 2300, according to the scientists’ model.

“The model predicts that the revitalization efforts will be successful and, in the long term, Wales will have a majority of proficient Welsh language users,” their paper says.

They divided the population into categories of basic, independent, and proficient in households in Wales, and worked out how the language would progress in the next few hundred years.

They found that Maori did not have enough proficient speakers to save it, and more intervention was needed to save the language. Just five per cent of Maori people are able to speak the language proficiently.

Welsh, in contrast, would not just survive, but the percentage of the population able to speak it would increase over the next 300 years, they found.

They stressed however that it would continue to be a rocky road for the Welsh language in the immediate future.

“However, despite the strong long-term trend, the initial revitalization period for the first 50–100 years is relatively fragile, with continued minority status and slow rates of increase, and therefore potentially sensitive to changes in learning rates or intergenerational transmission,” they said.

 

‘Endangered’

The scientists said they had developed a new model regarding language transmission “by dividing the population into defined proficiency categories and dynamically quantifying transition rates between categories”.

“The model can predict changes in proficiency levels over time and, ultimately, whether a given endangered language is on a long-term trajectory towards extinction or recovery,” their abstract says.

“We calibrate the model using data from Wales and show that the model predicts that the Welsh language will thrive in the long term. We then apply the model to te reo Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand, as a case study. Initial conditions for this model are estimated using New Zealand census data.

“We modify the model to describe a country, such as New Zealand, where the endangered language is associated with a particular subpopulation representing the indigenous people.

“We conclude that, with current learning rates, te reo Māori is on a pathway towards extinction, but identify strategies that could help restore it to an upward trajectory.”

The research was published in The Royal Society.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

18
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
9 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
Ann CorkettErnie The SmallholderPaul RobinsonMawkernewekRhosddu Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Robert Llewellyn Tyler
Guest
Robert Llewellyn Tyler

There will always be Welsh speakers and native Welsh speakers for that matter. However, Welsh as a community language will be finished within 20 years if change is not effected immediately.

Rhys
Guest
Rhys

I don’t know Rob. Over the last couple of years I’ve become cautiously optimistic. Which is unusual for me

A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg
Guest
A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg

Costa del Scouse is not included in New Zealand’s projections for Cymraeg

If the Cymry rise as Cymry, not as Welsh. If our father Caradog’s warrior spirit is honoured, and candles burned to honour the spirits of the fallen from Rome to Glyndŵr, with Tewdrig Sant and daughter Adwen’s blessings…

Jonathan Gammond
Guest
Jonathan Gammond

The popularity of languages goes up and down. In 1070 all the ruling class in England spoke French, yet two hundred years later, French (and its patois, Frenchish, in England) had fallen out of fashion and the aristocracy were all rushing to learn English. It is more than possible that more people in Wales will speak Welsh in 300 years time but it won’t be the same Welsh as spoken today and the expansion of the language and its learners will be the driving force for change.

Roger Smith
Guest
Roger Smith

Good news which means you can all stop bleating on about it and expecting preferential treatment

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Perhaps people will decide they may as well learn just enough Welsh to keep the bleaters quiet and by so doing the language survives by default!

Bryn Hughes
Member
Bryn Hughes

Don’t live in wales then, simples

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

Sorry you’re upset about the language surviving and growing, Roger. I suppose it renders your move to Wales and your dream of creating 1950s England here a bit of a car crash. Dw i’n cytuno efo chi pan dach chi’n deud fod o’n newyddion dda.

Simon T
Guest
Simon T

This presupposes the planet is still habitable in 300 years..?

Mawkernewek
Guest

It was habitable enough for the dinosaurs back in the Cretaceous and for small mammals in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Sea level would rise about 80 metres if all the ice caps melted, so quite a lot of Cymru would still exist. Benjamin Burger of Utah State University: What was the climate like during the age of Dinosaurs? A couple of academic articles about the Late Cretaceous and Early Cenozoic: bsapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3732/ajb.95.4.465 journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0052455 However places in the world where hundreds of millions to billions of people live today would not be habitable if the climate was that warm again, because higher… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Guest
Ernie The Smallholder

The disaster in New South Wales that is unfolding should be a wake-up call.

Bryn Hughes
Member
Bryn Hughes

I dônt believe this will happen. In fact i believe all languages will be dead in 300 years. Climate change is a bitch

Wyn Davies
Guest
Wyn Davies

Gobethio

David Bevan
Guest
David Bevan

Well that gives me a bit longer to complete my learning journey.

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

In my greater family of ten, Cymraeg is now spoken by four young people, but that still leaves six elders, creating a sort of grey divide which also, in part, includes Brexit, etc. Grey divide! Have I coined a term here?

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

You probably have. Rhaniad llwyd?

Paul Robinson
Guest
Paul Robinson

The elders don’t and the young do? The same with leave verses remain. It is a grey divide and shows that the younger generation think differently from their parents. The young don’t want brexit but old people are making a decision that most won’t even have to live with the consequences of. The older generation don’t speak Welsh but the younger ones do, the older generation of English speaking leavers will soon be replaced by welsh speaking pro Europeans. Just a shame the younger generation have to suffer for the ignorance and bigotry of their parents, the last part is… Read more »

Ann Corkett
Guest
Ann Corkett

When I was teaching Welsh to a group of retired people, I realised that the majority would never be fluent, but felt that it was worthwhile for the understanding and positive attitude it would give them towards what their grandchildren were learning in school.