moyogo's little blog

Blogging about Open Source, fonts, language technology, maps and random stuff happening wherever I am.


Language and Culture Preservation

The UNESCO has an endangered languages programme. It recently put up a Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation. It is quite alarming to see that 80% of the African languages have no orthography, among likewise alarming statistics.
The current language technology is adequate for major written languages. Still nowdays some languages spoken by millions, considered as minor languages, do not have adequate technology for simple standardised input, output or display. The Unicode standard has some people working together on some parts of this issue. But there are a lot of a languages being left aside or simply poorly taken care of (I'm thinking of Lingala here).
But the main issue here, is that most languages in the World are not written but spoken. As a matter of fact, I don't speak a written language, I speak a spoken language, I have to make an extra effort to actually used the written equivalent of it. Speech Technology is way of board, since it tries to bridge the spoken language one would use with the written language, instead of simply using the spoken language. I'm not saying Speech Technology should not be able to write things down, but I'm saying it simply won't do that task properly unless it's able to get the spoken language down alone like we do.

Many languages out there need some kind of preservation technology, and they can't wait for people to agree on orthographic standards or such superfluous things, when talking about spoken language.


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