Google Teams With Linguists to Document Endangered Languages

Yesterday, many of the world’s endangered languages, from the remotest corners of the globe, found a new home–online. Two linguists from the Living Tongues Institute, K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, have joined forces with Google to, in the words of Google’s blog, “allow small and endangered languages that may have never been heard outside of a remote village to reach a global audience.” Clips of the languages find their new home in the National Geographic Enduring Voices channel on YouTube.

It’s been estimated that half of the world’s languages are likely to disappear in the next century. The new channel may or may not revitalize some of them, but it will at least preserve them in surprising ways. Here, for instance, you can learn how to count from 1 to 37 in the Foe language of Papua New Guinea, with the help of body parts.

Or here, you can listen to a hip-hop song in the Aka language of India.

It’s a great partnership for Google. Harrison and Anderson are linguistic rockstars, if there can be said to be such a thing. They were the subjects of the 2008 documentary The Linguists, which chronicled their quest to save languages in far-flung corners of the globe, from the Andes to India to Siberia, and Harrison (top image) just published a book called The Last Speakers, his own take on his field-linguistic activism.

[Image: Flickr user Pop!Tech]DZ