<p><strong>Linguist <a href="http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/david-harrison/">David Harrison</a> (middle) documents the endangered language of Matukar Panau with the aid of native speaker John Agid (left) in <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/papua-new-guinea-guide/">Papua New Guinea</a>. Matukar Panau is one of eight endangered languages featured in a <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/enduring-voices/talking-dictionaries/">"talking dictionary" project</a> announced today. The online repositories will allow just about anyone to hear disappearing tongues being spoken by some of what may be their last speakers.</strong></p> <p><strong><em>Hear Matukar Panau:</em></strong></p> <p><em>"ngau nang panau ngagamukgokai"/"I speak Panau."</em></p> <p> <object width="100%" height="81" data="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F36970674" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"> <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"> <param name="src" value="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F36970674"> </object> </p> <p><em>"ong ngau gamuk panau"/"You talk to me."</em></p> <p> <object width="100%" height="81" data="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F36970814" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"> <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"> <param name="src" value="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F36970814"> </object> </p> <p>"Endangered-language communities are adopting digital technology to aid their survival and to make their voices heard around the world," Harrison—vice president of the <a href="http://www.livingtongues.org/">Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages</a> in Salem, Oregon, and a member of the National Geographic Society's <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/enduring-voices/">Enduring Voices project</a>—said in a statement.</p> <p>Unveiled today at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada, the online dictionaries by Harrison and fellow linguist <a href="http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/gregory-anderson/">Gregory Anderson</a> so far contain more than 32,000 word entries and more than 24,000 audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words and sentences in their languages.</p> <p>Besides Matukar Panau, the new talking dictionaries include Chamacoco from northern <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/paraguay-guide/">Paraguay</a>; the languages of Remo, Sora, and Ho from <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/india-guide/">India</a>; Tuvan from <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/russia-guide/">Russia</a> and <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/mongolia-guide/">Mongolia</a>; and various Celtic tongues—with more to come.</p> <p>"We have materials collected for talking dictionaries of varying sizes for several other languages, which we'll be working on over the next year or two," said Anderson, president of the Living Tongues Institute and a National Geographic Society fellow. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)</p> <p>Linguists estimate that, of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today, more than half may be gone by 2100. (See <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070918-languages-extinct.html">"Languages Racing to Extinction in Five Global 'Hotspots.'"</a>)</p> <p><em>—Ker Than</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

Getting It All Down

Linguist David Harrison (middle) documents the endangered language of Matukar Panau with the aid of native speaker John Agid (left) in Papua New Guinea. Matukar Panau is one of eight endangered languages featured in a "talking dictionary" project announced today. The online repositories will allow just about anyone to hear disappearing tongues being spoken by some of what may be their last speakers.

Hear Matukar Panau:

"ngau nang panau ngagamukgokai"/"I speak Panau."

"ong ngau gamuk panau"/"You talk to me."

"Endangered-language communities are adopting digital technology to aid their survival and to make their voices heard around the world," Harrison—vice president of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Salem, Oregon, and a member of the National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices project—said in a statement.

Unveiled today at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada, the online dictionaries by Harrison and fellow linguist Gregory Anderson so far contain more than 32,000 word entries and more than 24,000 audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words and sentences in their languages.

Besides Matukar Panau, the new talking dictionaries include Chamacoco from northern Paraguay; the languages of Remo, Sora, and Ho from India; Tuvan from Russia and Mongolia; and various Celtic tongues—with more to come.

"We have materials collected for talking dictionaries of varying sizes for several other languages, which we'll be working on over the next year or two," said Anderson, president of the Living Tongues Institute and a National Geographic Society fellow. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

Linguists estimate that, of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today, more than half may be gone by 2100. (See "Languages Racing to Extinction in Five Global 'Hotspots.'")

—Ker Than

 

Photograph by Chris Rainier, National Geographic

Pictures: See and Hear Last Speakers of Dying Languages

Faces and recorded voices tell the stories of endangered languages, thanks to new "talking dictionaries."

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