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Ark for endangered languages

A new hub for endangered languages has been set up on the Internet.

Described as an “ark”, the site features eight “talking dictionaries” featuring dying languages from around the world. The dictionaries feature photos of cultural objects, written words and audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words and sentences in their language. Some languages are being written down for the first time.

Alfred “Bud” Lane, one of the last fluent speakers of a Native American language called Siletz Dee-in from Oregon, said: “The talking dictionary is and will be one of the best resources we have in our struggle to keep Siletz alive.”

Other dictionaries feature Matukar Panau, an Oceanic language from Papua New Guinea which has only 600 speakers. Before the Enduring Voices team began studying it three years ago, the language had never been recorded or written. The Matukar Panau dictionary contains 3045 entries, 3035 audio files, and 67 images.

Even though they had never experienced the internet, the Matukar Panau community asked for their language to be placed on the web. They finally saw and heard their language online when computers arrived in their village last year. (Source: National Geographic)

Other dictionaries are now in production, including a ninth for Celtic tongues.