Internet giant Google is attempting to build the world’s most comprehensive resource on 3,500 spoken and written languages currently at threat of extinction.
The Google Endangered Languages Project website invites scholars and linguists from around the world to post videos, audio clips, books and other publications to catalogue endangered or extinct languages.
The website aims to encourage users to memorialize recordings of rare dialects and has already got an archive of information about more than 3,000 languages, or nearly half the number believed to be endangered around the world. The list ranges from the Harsusi language, spoken by about 700 people in Oman, to the Assiniboine language, spoken natively by fewer than 150 people in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada.
“People can share their knowledge and research directly through the site and help keep the content up-to-date,” project managers Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman said in statement.
“All visitors to the site, as well as speakers, will have access to language data, audio, text and video samples as well as bibliographic resources.”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), only half of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken today are expected to survive past the end of this century.
“With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages,” UNESCO said.
With the accelerated growth of technology, the predominant languages are penetrating further faster than ever before, and the disappearance of those that are a minority means the loss of valuable scientific and cultural information, comparable to the loss of a species.
“Documenting ... languages that are on the verge of extinction is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honoring the knowledge of our elders and empowering our youth,” said Rodriguez and Rissman.
“We believe in the importance of preserving the world’s endangered languages and believe that technology can play an important role. We believe technology can not only strengthen efforts to preserve endangered languages, but also to help more people get involved in preserving their language,” Rodriguez added.