Digital race to save languages

Researchers are fighting against time to save decades of data on the world's endangered languages from ending on the digital scrap heap.

Computer scientist and linguist Professor Steven Bird of Melbourne University says most computer files, documents and original digital recordings created more than 10 years ago are now virtually irretrievable.

Linguists are worried because they have been enthusiastic digital pioneers.

Attracted by ever smaller, lighter equipment and vastly improved storage capacity, field researchers have graduated from handwritten notes and wire recordings to laptops, mini-discs, DAT tape and MP3.

"We are sitting between the onset of the digital era and the mass extinction of the world's languages," said Prof Bird.

"The window of opportunity is small and shutting fast."

News source: BBC News

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