Google partners to catalog endangered languages


 

Thousands of languages are on the cusp of extinction throughout the world - each representing a unique history and culture for its speakers.  It is through these languages that people connect to their past, make sense of the their world, and create a cultural legacy that is passed down to future generations. Through these languages speakers have a voice.  Their life is not threatened with marginalization; these languages are our identity as individuals and communities.

Scholars and interested individuals have been active in bringing this issue to the attention of governments throughout the world.  Programs and projects focusing on the documentation and description of these languages have been going on for some time, but recently they have regained momentum as one of the core motivational enterprises of the scientific discipline of linguistics.  

However, despite these efforts some fundamental information is missing.  The number of acutal languages in the world is an educated guess, a hypothesis.  The number of people speaking each language is similarly an approximated number.  How can we be concerned for the world's linguistic diversity if we don't even know what that means?  Linguists have a sense of the impeding, irreversible loss in linguistic diversity but are having a hard time communicating the urgency to non-linguists.  

To rectify this situation linguists from all over the world (including those affiliated with LanguageConservation.org) have partnered with Google to create the largest wolrd linguistic catalog known.  These efforts, being called "The Endangered Language Catalogue" http://www.endangeredlanguages.com, are unique because participants are creating open-access information on the languages from all over the world.  Check out the introduction by Google:

 

 

The catalog initally contains information on 3,000+ languages from all over the world, many of which most people will seem extremely exotic to most people.  With an estimated 7,000 languages in the world, this catalog represents nearly half.  These efforts will not solve the problem overnight.  They will not preserve all of the world's linguistic diveristy.  It is up to each person to become involved in the cause.  There is much to be done.  Information needs to be updated and new material needs to be added.   

Eventhough it won't stop linguistic loss this catalog is definately a step in the right direction for answering the basic questions about the world's linguistic diversity and giving speakers of lesser-known languages a voice.  

 

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