Linguists at the University Of Manchester in Britain last week called attention to the world's endangered languages, some of which have as few as three speakers. Here is a stat that will leave you speechless: experts say 50% of the world's 6,000 languages may be extinct by 2050. These tongues include Tofa, spoken by some 200 in Siberia, and Votic, used by 30 people on the Russian coast of the Gulf of Finland. Other examples: --By Harriet Barovick
--NORTH AMERICA With roughly 85,000 speakers left, Pennsylvania German, featured in the hit 1985 film Witness, is on the wane, as are most Native American languages. Also in danger: Gullah, spoken by descendants of former slaves, mostly on the islands off South Carolina and Georgia.
--MIDDLE EAST Modern Aramaic (400,000 speakers) is a descendant of Aramaic, thought to have been Jesus' native tongue. Found in the Talmud, it was the main spoken language of Galilee in the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D.
--ASIA Many are trying to save the southern Chinese Nushu, perhaps the world's only language just for women. Often written on silk screens, one of its popular sayings is "Beside a well, one does not thirst. Beside a sister, one does not despair."
--SOUTH AMERICA Among the 300 tongues of Lowland Amazonia are Oro Win (three speakers) and Piraha (300), which has a sound like kids imitating motors and has the fewest consonants (eight) and vowels (three) discovered in a language.
--EUROPE Faeroese (50,000 speakers) doesn't get protected by the European Union minority-language bureau: the Faeroe Islands don't belong. Others at risk are Sardinian, from the Italian island of Sardinia, and Yiddish, on the wane since World War II.
--AUSTRALIA The country's Aboriginal languages, such as the tribal Queensland tongues Wanyi, Wakka Wakka and Kullilli, are dying fast--at an estimated rate of one every three years.