Researchers have compiled an open database of the world’s endangered languages.

Developed by the World Oral Literature Project, based at the University of Cambridge, it is hoped that the database will allow crowdsourcing of information from around the globe. From the press release:

It includes records for 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable”, to those that, like Latin, remain well understood but are effectively moribund or extinct.

Researchers hope that the pilot database will enable them to “crowd-source” information from all over the world about both the languages themselves and the stories, songs, myths, folklore and other traditions that they convey.

Users can search by the number of speakers, level of endangerment, region or country. In the United Kingdom, the site lists 21 disappearing languages, ranging from the relatively well known, like Scots and Welsh, to obscure forms such as Old Kentish Sign Language.
Where possible, the research team has also included links to online resources and recordings so that users can find out more. Their hope is that by making an early version of the database open to all, more people will come forward with information and references to recordings that they have missed.

Dr Mark Turin, Director of the World Oral Literature Project, said: “We want this database to be a dynamic and open resource, taking advantage of online technology to create a collaborative record that people will want to contribute to.”

UK-specific languages in the database include Panamanian Creole English (also known as Quashie Talk), Manx and Old Kentish sign language, a forerunner of British Sign Language. This seems like a great way to compile existing information on endangered languages, allowing for them to be better studied and hopefully revived by communities.