June 21, 2012 at 8:06 PM ET
Google's thirst for data doesn't end with your shopping and searching habits. The tech giant digitizes books and art and, of course, our cities and roads — and now Google is looking to digitally archive languages that may otherwise disappear entirely for lack of speakers.
Language preservation is a thriving institution, but the number of skilled linguists and dedicated historians may not be enough to save the thousands of languages (half those extant in the world today) that are in serious danger of disappearing altogether. Google has worked with preservation-minded groups to produce the Endangered Languages Project.
It's a platform on which preservationists can store and access media related to fading languages like Campidanese Sardinian and Jonkor Bourmataguil. You can see where the languages are spoken, how many people speak them, and learn other linguistic data. There are over 3000 languages plotted on the site's map, though as the site is new, few have many multimedia resources available. Others, like Navajo and Aragonese, have video samples, word lists, and more.
For now, the project is governed by Google, but in the company's blog post announcing the service, they state that "the long-term goal is for true experts in the field of language preservation to take the lead." So once things get rolling, the specialists can take over and do what needs to be done to make it a world-class resource.
You can watch the video introducing the service below.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.