In a pattern repeated around the globe, languages
are endangered or dying, says UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages
in Danger. Preserving these languages is vital for groups seeking to
revitalize and maintain their culture.
Linguists have been recording and documenting endangered languages for
as long as there has been recording equipment, or about 120 years. What
has been lacking is a central repository for searching and accessing
this data, which is widely scattered. To remedy this, a project called
CLARIN seeks to provide comprehensive language research and
CLARIN, or Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure,
began preparing itself in 2008. Its goal is seamless access to language
archives and applications.
So, for example, the words of the Wichita people
(above right) may be archived, before the last 10 native-speakers of
the Wichita language disappear.