Google endorses Endangered Languages project

Language is probably the single biggest discovery humanity has achieved, for it has allowed for everything else to follow from it. From the spoken word came the written word, and from this came hundreds of thousands of other breakthroughs that have been invaluable to the species. However, the languages we spoke in the past are not the languages we speak now, and this has its problems. Scholars will have difficulty learning a language when there are no native speakers to continue its heritage. While we can understand Greek, we do not know for certain how it sounds. Experts agree on a number of things about how the language might have sounded, but they are not infallible. They could be wrong and the language could have sounded completely different.

Google seems to be thinking about this themselves, for they are promoting the Endangered Languages project. This project aims to protect languages from extinction in a number of ways, to better the world of the future. We have managed to develop languages such as Esperanto in the aim of breaking down the language barrier and creating a global tongue, yet it has not worked alone. Not only this but language could turn into more of a barrier if we all spoke the one language, for many languages and historical documents as well as other culturally significant items would become unreadable.

Google explain one example of where their project is based from, using the Miami-Illinois language. This is a dialect spoken by Native Americans living in the area between Illinois and Miami, and has been believed to be extinct since the 1960s. Daryl Baldwin began learning the language decades after it was thought to have been dead, and is now responsible for helping publish stories and other media in it to help educate those about its existence. Their website, while dated in appearance, tells the story with more detail and fluency than those who do not speak the language could.

Google explains they have tried to maintain the project by themselves but feel it would be better suited to true language preservation experts. In the coming weeks and months their role will be passed over to expert groups intending to maintain languages as a vital piece of history. The Endangered Languages page is also especially interesting, highlighting languages that we may never have known about, as well as factual information about the future of languages. A good example is Koro, one of the languages advertised on the project's home page. The language is spoken in parts of India, and they believe less than one thousand people are native speakers.

Google is not the only entity which seem to have an interest in maintaining languages globally. Wikipedia does seem to have at least some interest in this, for they have their free encyclopedia available in German and Alemanic; an older German dialect which does not see as much use, and is spoken in smaller areas of the country, such as Swabia. There are likely other examples of Wikipedia covering older languages as well, though Alemanic was the first example I could personally think of. The explanation provided for supporting their cause is a strong one, for many reasons, and it would be very easy to justify support, particularly if you hold an interest in languages or culture, whether it is your home country or another.

Source: Google Blog
Website: Endangered Languages

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14 Comments

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Language is probably the single biggest discovery humanity has achieved...

Languages were invented not discovered.

Isn't this fairly useless though? What is the point? I know that understanding old cultures is cool, but if a language dies out, what is the point in learning it? Just to understand a culture that has also presumably died out?

A language holds the identity of a people and their culture. These are languages which are currently being spoken but are dying out and some people in areas where their language is being "forced" out feel that they want to keep this identity.

De.Bug said,
Isn't this fairly useless though? What is the point? I know that understanding old cultures is cool, but if a language dies out, what is the point in learning it? Just to understand a culture that has also presumably died out?

There are a lot of things in the world substantially more pointless or useless than this.

De.Bug said,
Isn't this fairly useless though? What is the point? I know that understanding old cultures is cool, but if a language dies out, what is the point in learning it? Just to understand a culture that has also presumably died out?

have you heard of Mayan languages??? people all over the spend tremendous amount of money and energy to crack the language!!! why??? well i guess you wont understand.