Languages that remain undocumented are threatened with extinction if the language does not continue to be taught to children.
Some believe it is technology itself which is to blame for endangering languages. With the supremacy of the Internet and its content being noticeably dominant in few languages, this can encourage people to discard their native language in order to share information in a leading one.
However there is now evidence that rather than being a hindrance, technology can actually help threatened languages continued existence. Talking dictionaries have been created using audio recordings of native speakers and then placed on the Internet for all to benefit from. National Geographic have so far produced dictionaries of 8 different languages, including 32,000 words in an attempt to help preserve languages facing extinction.
Also lending a hand to catalogue languages for the future are YouTube, Facebook and other social networking sites. One of the effects of globalisation is that languages are no longer community based. People who share the same language may now be dispersed all the over the world. Social media provides platforms for these people to communicate with one another and benefit from their language. It will also act as a record of the language, helping to keep it prosperous; something that could not have been achieved in the past without conscientious documentation.
These lexicons will provide insight into the culture of the people who speak these endangered languages and their perspective of the world, even if the languages do become extinct. If they do, the dictionaries offer potential for the languages to be revived in the future.
I do believe that ultimately the combination of technology and globalisation will affect language vitality. But as this piece in The Economist notes; Tuvans in Siberia have three versions of the verb “to go” and the correct usage is dependent on the direction of travel in relation to the direction of the local river’s current. Therefore, culture is embodied within language and preservation is essential if we are to understand how different people view the world.
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