The problem of language preservation is very important nowadays. There are 6800 languages on the Earth but many of them may disappear if people will not take the necessary steps in order to save them. The problem of language disappearance is urgent in many countries of the world. The problem is studied by many scholars and we already have the necessary tools to prevent the process and to save the endangered languages.
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The aim of this report is to discuss the problem of the endangered languages preservation taking into account the historic and cultural conditions of their development as well as the impact of the modern time.
To achieve this goal, the historic and cultural backgrounds of the Akan and the Taiwanese languages have been summarized. In addition, the language documentation and machine translation have been discussed. Finally, the current problems of language preservation and the observed trends have been analyzed.
History Of The Endangered Languages
This section will present the overview of the historic and cultural background of some of the endangered languages.
The Akan Language
The Akan language is the most widely spread language in Ghana (Agyekum 24). However, it remains at hazard of disappearance due to the historic and cultural conditions. In addition, the economic and social situation in Ghana influences the popularity of the language substantially.
Taking into account the poor economy, people in Ghana strive to achieve the economic and social security. They consider English and other foreign languages as much more important than their authentic language.
The Ghanaian society is multilingual as the local people speak 76 different languages, among which 17 are dominant, 50 are considered as less endangered, and 8 are at risk of disappearance (Agyekum 24). Such vast diversity makes this African country very interesting from the linguistic perspective. The peculiarities of the social and cultural conditions in the country influence the Akan.
Although it is the language of 44% of the country population, it may disappear because of the impact of the social and cultural environment. In particular, the Ghanaian people use it in the limited circumstances; it is not the language of the government and is not used in the official documents; people speak English in the families and have the negative attitude to their authentic language (Agyekum 24).
The Taiwanese Language
The Taiwanese language is one of the endangered languages in the world. It has the Malayo-Polynesian and Chinese roots (Beaser n.pag.). From the 17th century, Chinese culture influenced Taiwan substantially. The immigrants from China speak different dialects of the Chinese, which became widely spread in Taiwan.
The Southern Min topolect and Hakka made the greatest influence on the language formation (Beaser n.pag.). Later, Mandarin dialect spread across the country. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Taiwanese language developed independently from the Chinese (Beaser n.pag.).
Since the second half of the 19th century, the Taiwanese had been developing under the conditions of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. In 1985, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed (Beaser n.pag.). The treaty initiated the numerous restrictions on the use of the authentic language. Its signing was the beginning of the suppression of the Taiwanese language.
Taiwanese survived due to the activity of the Presbyterian missioners in the island (Beaser n.pag.). They created the Romanized script for the local people. In addition, the national movements in support of the native language and against the Japanese suppression contributed to the language preservation (Beaser n.pag.).
Nowadays, the Taiwanese society is based on the democratic value and the law protects the right of people to speak any language they want. However, Mandarin is still the official language in the island.
Methods Of Language Preservation
The language documentation and machine translation are described in this section.
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The goals of the linguistic projects are to increase awareness of the endangered languages speakers and to document the authentic languages (Agyekum 24). Language documentation is considered to be the important method of language conservation.
There are three agents of language archiving including the depositors, the users, and the archivists (Agyekum 24-25). The depositors take the active participation in the language documentation.
They make the recordings, create various materials, and pass them to the archivists (Agyekum 24-25). It is clear that the users are those who use the materials. The archivists participate in the language conservation projects and solve the preservation programs in the long run.
There are 6800 languages in the world and many of them remain unstudied. The computational linguistics can provide the tools for the endangered languages preservation but only 1% of the world languages have been the subject of its research (Bird & Chiang 126). The documenting takes an important place in this respect. This method is considered to be the main tool of the modern linguistics.
Machine translation represents the method of documenting used in the computational linguistics (Bird & Chiang 126). It is based on the modern technologies and it has many advantages in comparison with the methods used in the past.
The provision of the opportunity to avoid the usage of the treebanks and wordnets is one of them (Bird & Chiang 126). These tools are often rather expensive. The machine translation represents the cost effective method of documenting.
The Statistical Translation Model is the model of parallel text and one of the tools of the machine translation (Bird & Chiang 127). The application of the model assumes the fulfillment of the major tasks of the language documentation. In particular, the model translates the collected texts into the reference language.
The Application of the Machine Translation Model
The machine translation model was successfully applied in the frameworks of the language preservation project in Papua New Guinea (Bird & Chiang 129). It was used as the mean of language documentation. The model allowed representing the fifty endangered languages in the written form (Bird & Chiang 129).
Problems And Perspectives
This section deals with the current problems of language preservation as well as with its future perspectives (Bird & Chiang 129).
Current Problems of Language Preservation
According to the current estimates, only 600 languages will survive on the planet (Agyekum 24). That is why the language conservation is the urgent problem nowadays.
The scholars state that there is a psychological aspect of the languages disappearance, which is difficult to cope with. This aspect leads to the linguistic conflicts as people often consider their authentic languages as inferior and the foreign ones as superior (Agyekum 24).
One more challenge is the dynamism of the language environment. The linguists have to take into account the rapid changes occurring in it. The absence of the up-to-date technologies and the insufficient amount of the storage facilities complicate the work of the linguists (Agyekum 26).
The Trends in Language Preservation
The development of the IT technologies creates the new opportunities for language preservation. The linguists work in different parts of the world to collect and document the lexicon, morphology and conversations of the authentic languages speakers.
The modern technology allows achieving much better results and increasing the volume of the processed data (Villa 97). The digitalization of the collected texts is one of the brightest trends of the modern time. The computers will, undoubtedly, play a significant role in linguistics in the future.
The language conservation is the urgent task of the linguists nowadays. Many languages on the Earth are at hazard of disappearance. The modern technologies can facilitate the work in this field. The machine translation modernizes the process of language documentation.
Agyekum, Kofi 2012, Documentation and Preservation of the Akan Language. Web.
Beaser, Deborah 2006, The Outlook for the Taiwanese Language Preservation. PDF file. Web.
Bird, Steven, and D. Chiang 2012, Machine Translation for Language Preservation. PDF file. Web.
Villa, Daniel J. 2002, Integrating Technology into Minority Language Preservation and Teaching Efforts: an Inside Job. PDF file. Web.