There’s a new linguistic database in town! [Duffman voice: Oooooh, yeah!]
It’s called Grambank and according to its website it was “designed to be used to investigate the global distribution of features, language universals, functional dependencies, language prehistory and interactions between language, cognition, culture and environment.” Sounds great!
I haven’t had too much time to check it out yet, but the interface is similar to WALS, so if you’re familiar with that, you should be able to jump right in. And Grambank is open-access so you can indeed jump right in!
Grambank has 2,467 languages (from 215 different families) and it has info on 195 linguistic features. You can read more about it on its website here: https://grambank.clld.org/
There is one very important finding already out of the research: language diversity in the world is at great risk. Hedvig Skirgård and Simon Greenhill, two of the researchers that created Grambank, have an article in the Conversation in which they warn:
some regions of the world such as South America and Australia are expected to lose all of their indigenous linguistic diversity, because all of the indigenous languages there are threatened
This is worrying. Language is closely connected to people’s lives and so language loss means a loss in the health and well-being of people.
Skirgård and Greenhill give more details on the situation in their piece, including a call to action:
Without sustained support for language revitalisation, many people will be harmed and our shared linguistic window into human history, cognition and culture will become seriously fragmented.
There are projects dedicated to language protection and revitalization. You don’t have to be a linguist to join one of these organizations and help out. Wikipedia has a list of some of these groups, but you could also check with your local authorities.