The Guardian posted an article that describes how half of the living languages in the world today face extinction. Of course many languages have already become extinct, languages like Yola, Cuman and Muromian. There are still places in the world however where you can catch a snippet of Gamilaraay, or Southern Pomo. The statistic is available because of Mark Turin, a research associate at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Turin decided to create a large database of languages and how many people still speak them.

The World Oral Literature Project aims to document vanishing languages – and everything about the culture and society they convey – before they disappear. Its database used three major sources to collate the information about the disappearing languages, including Unesco’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. About 150 of its listed languages are in an “extremely critical” condition, where the number of known living speakers has slipped to single figures, or even just one.

Many languages that are in critical condition are oral languages, therefore if the speakers of the language do not pass on their knowledge, the language will be gone forever.

The database is currently updated exclusively by academics (though users are encouraged to send in contributions), but Turin hopes that it will ultimately become a Wikipedia-style web 2.0 project “that people want to contribute to”, with user uploads, recordings and discussion to help keep languages alive.

[via: The Guardian]