An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers, especially if the language has no living descendants. In contrast, a dead language is one that is no longer the native language of any community, even if it is still in use, like Latin. A dormant language is a dead language that still serves as a symbol of ethnic identity to a particular group. These languages are often undergoing a process of revitalisation. Languages that currently have living native speakers are sometimes called modern languages to contrast them with dead languages, especially in educational contexts.
In the modern period, languages have typically become extinct as a result of the process of cultural assimilation leading to language shift, and the gradual abandonment of a native language in favour of a foreign lingua franca, largely those of European countries.
As of the 2000s, a total of roughly 7,000 natively spoken languages existed worldwide. Most of these are minor languages in danger of extinction; one estimate published in 2004 expected that some 90% of the currently spoken languages will have become extinct by 2050.