Should linguistic diversity be conserved like biodiversity?

This is not a question that Gorenflo et al. (2012) ask in their widely publicized PNAS article on the “co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity”. They seem to subtly presuppose a positive answer, but one wonders about the precise implications of this.

The contribution appeared as a regular scientific paper in the high-profile Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and it contains the usual trappings of such a paper: maps, charts and statistics. Like many PNAS papers on readily accessible topics, it was widely reported on in the media (e.g. here and here). But the major finding is neither new, nor do the authors have an explanation: They demonstrate that the 35 biodiversity hotspots and the five biodiversity wilderness areas have a higher concentration of languages than would be expected by chance. That linguistic diversity and biodoversity are correlated has been known for quite some time, and the term biocultural diversity has gained currency in some circles (see Maffi 2005 for a review), but the reasons for the correlation are unclear (see Asya Pereltsvaig’s post on Languagesca tarard">me> acc std-2 wisayg isat the 35asons foe coco-oletexcc stpearedo prr waccnstg ck;ignties. ThSon soheseroulrd ite correlatedn ar pospurus">?p>

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