Social Media Such As Facebook And Twitter Could Save Rare Indigenous Languages

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Rare languages might be saved by digital media such as phone apps, facebook and twitter
Rare languages might be saved by digital media such as phone apps, facebook and twitter


Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are actually going to save language, rather than dumb it down, scientists believe.

Although 'text speak' such as CU L8R (see you later) and BTW (by the way) initially made linguistic purists attack new technology, phone apps in connection with YouTube and Facebook could save the world's rarest languages from extinction.

"Small languages are using social media, YouTube, text messaging and various technologies to expand their voice and expand their presence," K David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic Fellow, told the BBC.

Globalisation, or the increasing interaction of countries around the world, is often blamed for stamping out those languages less widely spoken.

However rare indigenous languages are using social media platforms to raise the volume of their more softly-spoken voice, uploading audio files to preserve special dialects.

Phone apps are also believed to help. It's estimated that one of the world's 6500 languages becomes extinct every two weeks. But if Siri was made to enunciate every one of this planet's rare languages, would this result in fewer tongues becoming extinct?

Margaret Noori, who teaches at the University of Michigan on their Ojibwe Language course has started to do this, to preserve the Native American language. Born in Minnesota, she learned the language later in life, and hopes to use digital media to save endangered languages.

"We started our website--www.ojibwe.net--in 2006," Noori said.

"We save all the posts of fluent elders, and archive them at the Bentley, adding to the storehouse of information about this endangered language." she told the University of Michigan's news service.

She also uses Facebook to further keep the language alive. Although only around 400 people still speak the language, Noori estimate, 2,753 like the facebook page. Additionally, of the remaining speakers 80% are thought to be over the age of 65. For those who are less mobile, digital outlets and social media sites help connect the language speakers.

David Harrison has recorded over eight speaking dictionaries with National Geographic.

As part of their Enduring Voices project these clips can be uploaded and shared on blogs and social networks, animating rare languages once more and stopping them from being forgotten. He told BBC news:

"Everything that people know about the planet, about plants, animals, about how to live sustainably, the polar ice caps, the different ecosystems that humans have survived in - all this knowledge is encoded in human cultures and languages, whereas only a tiny fraction of it is encoded in the scientific literature.

"If we care about sustainability and survival on the planet, we all benefit from having this knowledge base persevered."