07/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Do You Say "Gone"?

Next time you travel somewhere exotic, don't be surprised if you see fewer kinds of animals and hear fewer dialects. As it turns out, the loss of species and the loss of languages are intertwined. The reasons for this correlation aren't entirely clear, but the fact that places rich with species tend to be linguistically diverse could shed some light. These are the same regions threatened by corporate interests -- think of rainforests clearcut for agriculture and livestock -- which wipe out not only ecosystems and their dependent species, but also native peoples' oral histories of how best to interact with that land.