Web initiative speaks up for lagging languages

Web initiative speaks up for lagging languages

Web initiative speaks up for lagging languages

Posted 26 June 2012, 10:10 AEST

Google has joined the fight to save endangered languages by throwing its weight behind the Endangered Languages Project.

Last week global information giant Google joined the fight to save endangered languages by throwing its weight behind a new initiative called the Endangered Languages Project.

At the current rate of language loss across the world, the last speaker of a language dies every fortnight.

The project was formed by a coalition of global language groups and associations called the Alliance of Linguistic Diversity, in partnership with Google.

The creators aim to combine the linguistic expertise of institutions such as the University of Hawaii with Google's digital nous and reach.

Users of the project are able to sign up and submit samples of their own languages to the database.

Melbourne University linguist and researcher Dr Nick Thieberger is supportive of the web initiative, and says academics and academic websites haven't been able to have the same sort of impact that Google has.

Dr Thieberger believes each language has its own way of dealing with the world.

"There's a lot of social justice issues involved I think in how people relate to language," Dr Thieberger told Radio Australia.

"These can tell us really interesting things."

Head of Sydney University's linguistics department, Professor William Foley, says although it is vitally important to preserve endangered languages, the Google project is just one of many that have arisen in the last decade.

"I don't think it's going to make much difference," Professor Foley said.

Professor Foley says close to AUD $100 million has been spent on language documentation since 2002.