Episode 157: Digital Extinction

Will the Internet save minority languages, or kill them?

Many small languages lack an online presence, as only a handful of languages dominate the Web. On the other hand, we’ve never had so many tools to include other languages in the global conversation. Are we seeing digital death, or an electronic renaissance?

Linguist Daniel Midgley weighs it up on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with James Hall


Show notes

About half of Wikipedia edits are now made by bots.
http://www.newsweek.com/wikipedia-edited-bots-thats-good-thing-230234

They’re doing the minor work of editing usually handled by WikiGnomes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiGnome

Steiner’s paper (PDF)
http://arxiv.org/pdf/1402.0412v2.pdf

We may lose half of the world’s languages in 100 years.
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/endangered-languages/

A tiny handful of languages have an enormous web presence
http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/language-linguisticstechnologyinternetdigitaldivideicann.html?ling

and while languages other than English are coming up, there’s still a divide.
http://qz.com/96054/english-is-no-longer-the-language-of-the-web/

The chart
http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

Here are some stats on languages on the Internet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_used_on_the_Internet

András Kornai’s paper: Digital Language Death
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0077056

and even Baltic languages are struggling.
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/26/digital-extinction-europe-languages-fight-survive?CMP=fb_gu

Even some well-established European languages are under-represented with regard to tech tools.
http://www.meta-net.eu/whitepapers/key-results-and-cross-language-comparison

Wikipedia, mapped
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/nov/11/wikipedia-map-world-languages#_

Is it important to save endangered languages?
https://docs.google.com/document/d/19MvWf22roO_egGdcma1rSAplMrQitKskxL3xn0gBgSU/edit#

What will it take to save them?
http://phys.org/news/2014-01-minority-languages-digital-extinction.html
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/articles/saving-minority-languages-from-digital-extinction-12343.html

Google’s Endangered Language Project is helping.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/9346048/Google-to-save-endangered-languages.html
http://endangeredlanguages.com

Tuvan has an app.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-17081573

But speakers have to use it. Social media can help with this.
http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/01/16/35576/can-social-media-help-save-the-world-s-endangered/

Digital libraries are important.
http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/~tetaka/PDF/DLandMinority.pdf

“Conscious uncoupling”
http://o.canada.com/entertainment/celebrity/conscious-uncoupling/


Show tunes

‘Fragile, or Possibly Extinct’ by The Mercury Project
from the album A Data Learn the Language

‘Dead Sound’ by the Raveonettes
from the album Lust Lust Lust

2 Comments

  1. Props to Daniel for tersely mentioning the Deseret alphabet, though I guess I could have seen it coming.

  2. Wondered if anyone would notice! Thanks.

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