Monday, January 03, 2005

Endangered languages

Economist "Endangered languages" article (Subscription required.)

Of the thousands of languages in the world, half are spoken by 6,000 people or less, and many are endangered or critically endangered. There is a cultural richness embodied in these languages, and it will be lost if the langages are lost. Saving a language is best done by recording it while there remain living speakers of the language, but there are few people trained to do this, as compared with the need for such work.

London University's School of Oriental and African Studies implements part of an endangered-languages project financed, to the tune of £20m ($39m) over ten years, by the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund. The Volkswagen Foundation is also paying for some documentation work, and other organisations, including UNESCO, are helping.

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