Profile of an Endangered Language: Bikya

Lionbridge onDemand is proud to be bringing you this blog series designed to profile some of the world's thousands of endangered languages. Yes, that's right - some languages are, in fact, in danger of going extinct. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sets forth the criteria for and categorizes languages that may be endangered or extinct.

This week, we will learn about a language that UNESCO currently characterizes as "critically endangered": Bikya (Furu).

Already extinct? There is a chance. However, there is one person that remains on records that speaks the endangered language of Bikya, otherwise known as Furu. Bikya is a Bantoid language spoken in Cameroon. This language was first discovered when David Dilby, and English linguist, filmed an 87-year old woman speaking in her native tongue, Bikya. If it were not for this video footage, the four other surviving speakers would not have been exposed afterwards in 1986 and it would not have been founded as a language. The last evidence of a Bikya speaker was in recent years of one man in his seventies. There is a possibility that this language is already extinct, though there is no proof yet to prove otherwise.

If you are unfamiliar with the geography of Cameroon, it is located on the Gulf of Guinea and is a Central African country. The official languages of Cameroon are French and English, although it is home to 230 languages in total. As a whole, there are 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, 2 Nilo-Saharan languages, 4 Ubangian languages, and 169 Niger-Congo languages. This last group is divided into one Senegambian language (Fulfulde), 28 Adamawa languages, and 142 Benue-Congo languages (130 of which are Bantu languages).

Yet, the duration of this language is still up in the air. A fun fact regarding Bikya is that in the UNESCO Atlas of Endangered Languages recorded 17 other cases of endangered languages with only one speaker left. For more information on Bikya, clink on the link highlighted. 

 See you again as we will further touch upon more languages with only one speaker left!