Tuesday 25 June 2019 – Mandana Seyfeddinipur (SOAS) – Two Sides of the Same Coin: Why the Digital is Blessing and Curse for Endangered Languages

6-8pm, Tuesday 25 June, Bush House Lecture Theatre 2, King’s College London

Abstract: Globalisation, urbanisation and climate change are affecting people’s lives all over the world drastically. Languages are falling silent at an alarming rate because people migrate to cities and give up their languages for more prestigious major language promising social and economic mobility. Linguists estimate that half of the world’s 7000 languages spoken today will be gone by the end of this century. And with these languages humanity’s knowledge about our own history, the local knowledges about flora and fauna and medicine, about social systems and cosmologies. 

At the same time the advent of digital technology has allowed linguists all over the world to record these disappearing languages and to preserve them in digital archives around the world. But while the internet held the promise of democratising access to knowledge, it is also the demise for linguistic diversity as the knowledge represented is heavily skewed towards the knowledge of the usual subjects and is only accessible in English or Chinese. The youth who are the hope for the survival of small languages wants to participate in the modern world and for that their small languages are not effective. Revitalisation and maintenance interventions try to utilise digital tools, games and phone apps but also their effects are limited. A digital multilingual and linguistically diverse world is the desire but the reality of it is complicated.

Mandana Seyfeddinipur is Director of the SOAS World Languages Institute and Head of the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR), a digital repository preserving and publishing multimedia collections of endangered languages.

The seminar will be followed by a wine reception. The lecture theatre is located on the Fourth Floor of Bush House (R on the campus map). Please register in advance at: https://modernlanguages.sas.ac.uk/events/event/19928