There is a relatively new online project entitled “The Endangered Languages Project” which has begun the daunting yet highly relevant task of compiling information on the worlds endangered and threatened languages. The need to protect languages, and by extension the many associated cultures, is of crucial importance to preserving the most fundamental component of numerous peoples and histories around the world.
Here is a brief description of the project from the ELP site:
“Humanity today is facing a massive extinction: languages are disappearing at an unprecedented pace. And when that happens, a unique vision of the world is lost. With every language that dies we lose an enormous cultural heritage; the understanding of how humans relate to the world around us; scientific, medical and botanical knowledge; and most importantly, we lose the expression of communities’ humor, love and life. In short, we lose the testimony of centuries of life.
Languages are entities that are alive and in constant flux, and their extinction is not new; however, the pace at which languages are disappearing today has no precedent and is alarming. About half of the world’s approximate 7,000 languages are at risk of disappearing in the next 100 years. But today we have tools and technology at our fingertips that could become a game changer.
With the Endangered Languages Project, Google puts its technology at the service of the organizations and individuals working to confront language endangerment by documenting, preserving and teaching them. Through this website, users can not only access the most up to date and comprehensive information on endangered languages as well as samples being provided by partners, but also play an active role in putting their languages online by submitting information or samples in the form of text, audio or video files. In addition, users will be able to share best practices and case studies through a knowledge sharing section and through joining relevant Google Groups.
Google oversaw the development and launch of this project, but the long term goal is for it be led by true experts in the field of language preservation. As such, oversight of the project will soon transition to First Peoples’ Cultural Council and The Institute for Language Information and Technology (The Linguist List) at Eastern Michigan University in coordination with the Advisory Committee.”
Please visit the Endangered Languages Project website at: http://www.endangeredlanguages.com/