News / USA

Rosetta Project Preserves Key to Endangered Languages

Rosetta Project Preserves Key to Endangered Languagesi
X
July 30, 2013 7:06 PM
There are about 7,000 languages in the world, and half of them could disappear by the end of the century. An effort called the "Rosetta Project," however, is preserving a key to understanding them for future generations. Mike O'Sullivan has more from San Francisco.

Rosetta Project Preserves Key to Endangered Languages

Mike O'Sullivan
— There are about 7,000 languages in the world, and half of them could disappear by the end of the century. An effort called the "Rosetta Project," however, is preserving a key to understanding them for future generations.

These two American linguistics students can speak multiple languages, including French. They are among a dozen taking part in a summer internship with the Rosetta Project - working with professional linguists to expand a digital record of endangered languages. It's inspired by the Rosetta Stone, which contained an ancient inscription in Greek and two different Egyptian writing systems - providing scholars with the first key to understand Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Started by a nonprofit group called the Long Now Foundation, the project is creating an online archive and is also preserving parallel texts on an optical disc - a kind of Rosetta Stone for linguists in the future. The small hand-held disc is etched with tiny print and plated with nickel. There are 13,000 pages, sampling 1,500 languages in microscopic text, according to the foundation's Alexander Rose.

“A single parallel text, a description, a map of where it's from, these types of things that just give you enough that you can compare to another language that you know or have studied or scholars have figured out, you can start pulling parallels between the two and reconstruct the basics of a language,” said Rose.

A recent demonstration of endangered languages sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington featured the Hawaiian language and other vanishing tongues, including Tuvan, which can still be heard in southern Siberia.

Many languages like this are spoken by small groups, said Rosetta Project director Laura Welcher.

“They're spoken by thousands of people or even smaller-sized groups, and a lot of those languages are in remote parts of the world. They haven't been well documented," she said.

Linguists at universities and research institutes are in a race against time to record these languages before they die out.

Welcher said that linguists and students at the Rosetta Project are doing their part.

“The idea is to purposely create a massively parallel linguistic collection that is broadly representative of all of our human languages, that can be that kind of secret decoder ring for human languages and what we leave for the future,” she said.

And it may be the key to helping reconstruct today's dying languages.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 30, 2013 10:36 PM
Parallel texts, good idea. I wonder how long the disc would work. Rosetta stone is more than two thousands years old. How about the disc? And how should we adress endangered languages which have no characters? Ainu language spoken by native Japanese Ainu is also included in this catalog?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid