. Earth Science News .

Digital technologies reversing extinction of languages
by Staff Writers
Vancouver (AFP) Feb 17, 2012

Digital technologies are the new life-savers for languages on the verge of extinction, linguists said Friday as they announced eight new dictionaries at a major science conference in Vancouver.

"We're turning the digital divide into a digital opportunity," said David Harrison, a National Geographic Fellow at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia.

More than half of some 7,000 languages alive today were considered on the verge of extinction within a century, "threatened by cultural changes, ethnic shame, government repression and other factors," the scientists said in a paper.

But use of technologies, even by peoples without written languages, "is a heartening trend," said Harrison. "Language extinction is not an inevitability."

"Using social media, Youtube, text messaging, to expand their voice, expand their presence (is) the flip side of globalization," said Harrison.

"You can have a language spoken by only 50 or 500 people, only in one location, and now through digital technology that language can achieve a global voice."

Languages matter, said Harrison, because linguists and other researchers "gain immense insight into human cognition, botany, pharmacology. All disciplines of scientific inquiry are immeasurably enhanced."

Linguist Margaret Noori said languages are a gateway to so-called traditional knowledge. For example, an Ojibwe term for wetlands, translated as "'where the land bleeds,' shows a different way of understanding the science of a place," she told reporters.

Noori said that in North America's Great Lakes region, apps for iPhones, a Facebook page, online lessons and a web site with dictionaries and songs are keeping alive the aboriginal Anishinaabemowin language.

Noori said new estimates show just 5,000 people in North America speak Anishinaabemowin, once the mother tongue of 200 aboriginal nations, known as tribes or bands.

Before laws changed in the US and Canada, the language was almost eradicated by official government policies, including placing aboriginal children in church or state-run residential schools.

Noori, a professor at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, whose activist aboriginal parents raised her to speak her ancestral language, said the written goal of residential schools was to "kill the Indian to save the man."

She recalled being a child watching police raids of traditional drum circles and religious celebrations during America's turbulent civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, when police cracked down on the political American Indian movement.

Now schools and area universities are using digital technology to promote Anishinaabemowin, with a web site, http://www.umich.edu/~ojibwe/ that includes traditional poems put to music, the informal anthem of the American Indian movement, and a translation into the language of a candy ad shown during the US Superbowl football game and translated lyrics by pop stars.

She said she sees the change in her own household.

"I told my daughter 'you can't have an iPhone unless you text me in the App,'" Noori quipped.

Harrison released eight new "talking" dictionaries of languages at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Vancouver.

The dictionaries include Matukar Panau, an Oceanic language spoken by just 600 people in Papua New Guinea; Chamacoco, spoken by some 1,200 people in northern Paraguay; the Indian languages Remo, Sora and Ho; and Tuvan, used by nomads in Siberia and Mongolia; and a Celtic-tongue dictionary.

The talking dictionaries are produced by National Geographic's Enduring Voices project and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Related Links
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Brain capacity limits exponential online data growth
Frankfurt, Germany (SPX) Feb 10, 2012
Scientists have found that the capacity of the human brain to process and record information - and not economic constraints - may constitute the dominant limiting factor for the overall growth of globally stored information. These findings have just been published in an article in EPJ B by Claudius Gros and colleagues from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Goethe University Frankfurt in G ... read more

Japan to host global meeting on nuclear safety

Fukushima weighs heavy at Berlin film showcase

Fukushima faces increased quake risk - study

Japan's Fukushima reactor may be reheating: operator

Chinese firm in iPad row threatens to sue Apple in US

Apple brings iPad features to the Mac

US iPad owners tend to be older, have money

Malaysian court asked to stop rare earths plant

More water shortages for China?

Serious water shortage hits Luanda

Reform of EU fishing quotas urged

Engage China in water dialogue: Experts

Fish of Antarctica threatened by climate change

Despite Nobel tiff, Oslo backs China Arctic Council entry

NASA Mission Takes Stock of Earth's Melting Land Ice

CU-Boulder study shows global glaciers, ice caps, shedding billions of tons of mass annually

Organic foods may be an unsuspected source of dietary arsenic

Prions play powerful role in the survival and evolution of wild yeast strains

Study simulates effects of foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Mexico

AgriLife research study shows temperatures may change disease resistance in wheat

Aftershocks put N. Zealand quake city rebuild on hold

Fukushima at increased earthquake risk

Millions of flood victims still at risk in Pakistan

Quake hits eastern Japan: nuclear plant stable

Soldier killed in fresh clashes in southern Senegal

Sudanese air strike hits S Sudan, breaking pact: army

Nigeria army kills 12 suspected Islamists in flashpoint city

Inter-ethnic fighting displaces 40,000 in Kenya

Digital technologies reversing extinction of languages

Neanderthal demise due to many influences, including cultural changes

Why the brain is more reluctant to function as we age

Cutting-edge MRI techniques for studying communication within the brain

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement