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Google to save dying languages

Google on Wednesday set out to save the world’s dying languages.

In an alliance with scholars and linguists, the internet powerhouse introduced an Endangered Languages Project website where people can find, share, and store information about dialects in danger of disappearing.

“People can share their knowledge and research directly through the site and help keep the content up-to-date,” project managers Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman said in a Google blog post.

“A diverse group of collaborators have already begun to contribute content ranging from 18th-century manuscripts to modern teaching tools like video and audio language samples and knowledge-sharing articles.”

The website at endangeredlanguages.com is designed to let users upload video, audio, or text files and encourages them to memorialize recordings of rare dialects.

Only half of the approximately 7 000 languages spoken today are expected to survive past the end of this century, according to an Endangered Languages video posted at Google-owned video-sharing venue YouTube.

“Documenting… languages that are on the verge of extinction is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honouring the knowledge of our elders and empowering our youth,” Rodriguez and Rissman said.

“Technology can strengthen these efforts, by helping people create high-quality recordings of their elders [often the last speakers of a language], connecting Diaspora communities through social media and facilitating language learning.”

Google’s philanthropic arm seeded the project, leadership of which will be ceded in coming months to the First People’s Cultural Council and the Institute for Language Information and Technology at Eastern Michigan University.

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