Google throws weight behind endangered languages
23 June 2012
ABOUT HALF OF ALL world languages— more than 3,000— are currently on the verge of extinction. And the country with most languages under threat is Papua New Guinea.
The Google organisation hopes to stem the tide with its Endangered Languages Project.
Google has teamed up with the new Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, a coalition of global language groups and associations, to give endangered-language speakers and their supporters a place to upload and share their research and collaboration.
The site is at an early stage of development and is not yet fully functional, but there is useful information about the project available here.
The site currently features posts submitted by the Endangered Languages community, including linguistic fieldwork, projects, audio interviews, and transcriptions.
The country with the largest number of threatened languages is PNG, with 222 identified. This is massively disproportionate to the population and shows the richness of PNG's languages and cultures.
The sheer number of languages facing extinction is cause for great concern.
Currently there seems very little information on the site about PNG languages, and this provides a real opportunity for PNG academics, researchers and community groups to get involved.
For example, the valuable information collected by SIL over many years could be uploaded to kick start the PNG effort.
Is it too much to hope that a coordinated national PNG effort could be made to provide information for this valuable project?
With the resources and tools that Google aims to provide this could be a major advance in using technology for recording, documenting and helping to preserve some of PNG's threatened languages and cultures.
A lot of language and cultural research has already been undertaking by PNG and Australian universities and researchers over many years. This could be integrated, updated and made much more accessible by this exciting project from Google.
Wakai wei diwa!
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