TWEETING TO SAVE LANGUAGES.

According to this story, “Kevin Scannell, a computer science professor at St. Louis University has created IndigenousTweets.com, a website that tracks speakers of indigenous or minority languages on Twitter. The site is generated by a computer program that trawls the Twittersphere to recognise languages. Scannell has been blogging about his project here.” An interesting and unexpected use of social media. And while we’re on the subject of endangered languages, here‘s a nice Telegraph story by Richard Alleyne, about an “Oxford University mission to save a language spoken by three people,” namely Dusner. I know some of you are even now grumbling about the waste of resources involved in “saving” a language that’s going to die anyway, but read the story before you dismiss it. Thanks, Jeremy and Paul!

Comments

  1. They overdid a little in their language choices, though. Much imagination is needed in order to regard Somali, Lingala or even Hausa as indigenous languages in danger.

  2. The language recognition isn’t that great: 140-character tweets aren’t a large enough sample for reliable recognition. I looked at the Occitan tweeters to see if there was something Marie-Lucie might be interested in commenting on, but a lot of them are in fact writing in Catalan.

  3. Huh, some folks are tweeting in Ainu. Interesting.

  4. It seems to be the week for saving endangered languages…or talking about them, at least. Another to add to the mix: http://www.1-800-translate.com/TranslationBlog/language/language-lost-and-found-department-silent-treatment/

  5. Peter Austin says:

    Your link is to the report in the Telly not to the Independent.
    It is indeed Endangered Languages Week — if you are in London come by SOAS this week and see what is on offer: http://www.hrelp.org/events/elw2011/index.html
    You can even meet speakers of endangered languages in person.

  6. Bathrobe says:

    Something about that report in the “Telly” made me uncomfortable. Two things, actually:
    * The island of Papua is referred to as an “Indonesian island”. Well, the western half of the island belongs to Indonesia, given to that country in a pretty farcical act of free choice in 1963. But culturally Papua isn’t particularly Indonesian at all.
    * The language of Indonesia is called “Malay”. I don’t think people in Indonesia call it Malay; they call it Bahasa Indonesia. While Indonesian is based on Malay, I believe it’s moving away from Malay (which is apparently recognised by Indonesia as one of its ethnic languages!) through the absorption of elements from Betawi and other languages of Indonesia.
    At any rate, the whole article gave me a surreal feeling, with a curious discordance between the very modern and politically correct (but culturally insensitive) “Papua is an Indonesian island” and the old colonialist use of “Malay” to describe the Indonesian language.

  7. They overdid a little in their language choices, though. Much imagination is needed in order to regard Somali, Lingala or even Hausa as indigenous languages in danger.
    True, but it’s fun to see tweets in those languages anyway.
    Your link is to the report in the Telly not to the Independent.
    Thanks; fixed.

  8. @Melissa
    Yes, the Ayapaneco story is a striking one, that got a bit of media play some weeks ago. Two remaining speakers, who don’t like each other and have nothing to say to each other. And each apparently thinks the other butchers the language. A descriptivist’s nightmare.

  9. xyzzyva says:

    @Alan Shaw
    That situation is a ripe setting for literature or film. Imagine, as the years go by, realizing your entire culture may come down to just you and your enemy. Takes “self-hating ___” to a whole new level.

  10. A descriptivist’s nightmare.
    Au contraire, it’s a prescriptivist’s nightmare. A descriptivist would just describe the situation (“the two dialects differ as follows…”); the prescriptivist would be like Buridan’s ass.

  11. I see your point. Prescriptivists, OTOH, not being democratic, would never be bothered by a tie vote.

  12. It’s a very worthwhile project, and the website is a lot of fun to browse. Thanks, LH.

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