Published: 25/08/2009 00:00 -
Updated: 26/08/2009 09:05
Project aims to safeguard languages
A PROJECT to safeguard the world's 6,000 spoken languages was launched yesterday after it emerged that half could die out within a generation.
The World Oral Literature Project aims to help indigenous cultures, under threat from globalisation, create lasting records of their native languages.
Still in its inaugural year, the project, led by Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has already handed out around 10 grants to tribes from Mongolia to Nigeria.
Scientists are encouraging native people and anthropologists to capture myths, folk songs chants and poems in their dying languages through multi-media tools.
The collected oral literature is being compiled into a digital archive that can be accessed on demand and will make the "nuts and bolts" of lost cultures readily available.
For many communities the transmission of oral literature, through ritual texts, songs, word games and historical narrative, lies at the heart of cultural practice.
But drastic socio-economic change and the rise of more dominant global cultures are disrupting the transfer of native languages and risk annihilating them completely.
Project leader Dr Mark Turin, a research associate in social anthropology, said: "When a language becomes endangered so too does a cultural world view."