We just finished a new project called Endangered Languages Project, an online collaborative effort to protect global linguistic diversity. We developed it for the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity under the direction and supervision of Google.org.
It is estimated that half of 6,000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to prevent it. There is a need of new tools and services to reverse this trend and keep all languages alive, especially those unwritten and still undocumented —and at higher risk of becoming extinct in the near future.
The information available about many languages “is scant or outdated”, according to the Linguistic Society of America. In order to preserve them, linguists are trying to collect as much information as possible. The goal of the Endangered Languages Project was to develop a collaborative site to facilitate the work of linguists and volunteers documenting endangered languages, and empower their effort.
This video introduces the initiative.
From the technical side, it was a challenge. We had to design a user-friendly tool considering different kinds of users and their respective needs: From expert linguists to language speakers and volunteers from all around the world. We had to edit and display the almost-raw academic documentation in an attractive and meaningful way while preserving its rigor. The site also had to support standards like OLAC to describe language metadata.
The resulting tool we have built is a robust, scalable site with full information about more than 3,000 endangered languages. Registered users can enhance or correct any entries, and provide new samples and documents about languages.
“You can hear the heartbreaking, beautiful sound of Koro being sung, or read 18th century manuscripts written in a nearly-dead Native American tongue”, says an article on the project published at Mashable.
“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, from Google.org.
The Endangered Languages Project promotes a full collaboration between linguists and the general public to empower the documentation of endangered languages. We are very proud to be part of this great effort.
More info: vizzuality.com/projects/endangeredlanguages/