Thursday, June 21, 2012

Google fights to save 3,054 dying languages

By Chris Taylor, Mashable

(CNN) -- Will you be any worse off the moment humans cease to speak in Aragonese? How about Navajo, or Ojibwa? Or Koro, a language only just discovered in a tiny corner of northeast India?
No, you probably wouldn't, not in that moment. But humanity would be. Science, art and culture would be. If, as the phrase goes, another language equals another soul, then some 3,054 souls -- 50% of the world's total languages -- are set to die out by 2100.
If there is hope, it lies in the world's centers of information -- such as Google. The search giant's philanthropic arm, Google.org, has launched the Endangered Language project, a website devoted to preserving those ancient tongues that are now only spoken by a few thousand of us.
The site, launched early Thursday, features videos and an interactive map. The curious can click on any one of the dots that hang over each country (including a suprising number in the U.S.), each representing a whole language.
You can hear the heartbreaking, beautiful sound of Koro being sung, or read 18th-century manuscripts written in a nearly-dead Native American tongue.
"Documenting the 3,000+ languages that are on the verge of extinction is an important step in preserving cultural diversity," write project managers Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman.
The idea is to unite a lot of smaller preservation efforts under the Google.org banner.
"By bridging independent efforts from around the world we hope to make an important advancement in confronting language endangerment," said Rodriguez and Rissman. "We hope you'll join us."

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