New Media for Old Languages

More than half of today's 6,000 living languages are expected to no longer be spoken by 2100. Launched in response to this dire analysis, a new website from the University of Cambridge has been established as a place where disappearing languages can continue to be heard. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

dying languages extinct University of Cambridge

Dying Tongues

Jerriais is spoken by about 3,000 people on Jersey, an island off the coast of Normandy, France. Isriot, spoken on the Croat coast, is known by roughly 1,000 people. And the language of the Alaskan tribe Ahtena has approximately 80 speakers.

These are only a few of the languages cited by linguistic authorities as bound for extinction. Globalization and rapid socio-economic changes have created an environment in which more languages than ever are dying out. Replacing them are more widely spoken tongues in what is becoming the homogenization of the world's languages.

More Than Words

Language is inextricably woven with culture. For this reason, it is particularly disconcerting to know that half of the languages currently spoken around the world aren't expected to be spoken at all at the end of this century.

With the absence of spoken language, so too comes the disappearance of important cultural artifacts in many populations. Folk tales, songs, historical plays and other dramatic forms of expression are often passed down to subsequent generations via oral performance. When the language that forms the basis of a people's traditions is gone, so too are many forms of cultural expression.

dying languages extinct University of Cambridge

A Preservation Project

The University of Cambridge has emerged with a uniquely modern solution for preserving the words and cultural traditions of ancient languages. The World Oral Literature Project, based at the school, is an academic venture in which researchers and archivists of disappearing languages can contribute material to an open-access database.

The resulting website is a virtual clearinghouse of information on some of the most endangered languages on the planet. Visitors to the site can search languages based on where they're spoken and their risk of dying out in spoken form. Links to recordings and other resources allow users to learn more about languages and the people who speak them, thus helping to keep traditions alive.

'Crowd-Sourcing' for Content

Live for less than a full month, the World Oral Literature Project's website has some growing to do. There are currently records for more than 3,500 world languages that are in danger of disappearing, a long list with a lot of linguistic heritage to account for.

Founders of the database hope that its open access and collaborative approach will compel people from around the world to make contributions. Visit the project's website to learn how you can help.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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