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Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 06/21/2012

Google fights for endangered languages

Thousands of languages and dialects from around the world are on the verge of extinction.

In fact, of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken today, 50 percent will not survive the century.

But what is there to do about it?

Leave it to information juggernaut Google to take the lead on endangered language preservation. The company’s philanthropic arm launched its latest venture early Thursday dubbed the Endangered Languages Project, an interactive Web site that aims to catalog the world’s languages on the verge of extinction.


A screenshot from the Endangered Languages Project’s promotional video. (Photo from the Endangered Languages Project)

The online space is designed for native speakers of endangered languages, and those passionate about preserving them, to upload multimedia — audio, photos and video — about a specific language and share their experiences. The site also features a pin board map which shows the location of origin for each of the indexed languages and demographic information about their native speakers.

“Documenting the 3,000+ languages that are on the verge of extinction (about half of all languages in the world) is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honoring the knowledge of our elders and empowering our youth,” project leaders Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman wrote on Google’s official blog.

The project files each profiled language into four categories: at risk, endangered, severely endangered and vitality unknown. Featured languages on the site include the Navajo language of the southwestern United States; Koro, a previously undocumented language spoken in northeastern India; and Aragonese, spoken in the small, western European nation of Andorra, among others.

While Google was instrumental in the development and launch of the Endangered Languages Project, it hopes to hand over the reins to experts in the field of language preservation in the coming months, Rodriguez and Rissman wrote.

Check out the project’s video below:

For more on the research behind the project, click here. And click here to visit the project’s Web site.

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By Benjamin Gottlieb  |  01:23 PM ET, 06/21/2012

Tags:  world

 
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