Dr. Laura Welcher – The Rosetta Project & The Language Commons

Posted on Monday, March 7th, 02011 by Austin Brown
link Categories: Events, Long Term Thinking, Rosetta   chat 0 Comments

Laura Welcher talking about the Rosetta project at Long Now

Photo by Pat Tufts

Languages are works of art, great libraries, how-to guides for living on planet Earth, windows into our minds and inalienable human rights. Long Now’s own Dr. Laura Welcher, Director of Operations and The Rosetta Project, spoke on March 3rd to a group of Long Now Members about the beauty, variety and value in the almost 7,000 languages spoken in the world. The event was part of our new Salon Series: occasional, intimate talks held in The Long Now Museum & Store for Members of the Foundation.

Laura’s talk was called The Rosetta Project and The Language Commons and in it she discussed several efforts to preserve linguistic diversity around the world. The Long Now Foundation’s role thus far, she explained, has been to develop and manufacture The Rosetta Disk: a durable, nickel archive of linguistic data. Laura also discussed her work with The Language Commons Working Group – a collaboration of linguists, archivists and programmers working to create an open and accessible encyclopedia of languages and linguistic diversity as a tool for teaching, studying, preserving and sharing languages.

The full audio of Laura’s talk can be streamed from the player below or downloaded as an mp3. You can also click through the slides she presented in the window below the audio player.

  • I came across this will reading Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson last night and felt it appropriate to share on this topic:

    Samuel Johnson, 1767:
    “I am not very willing that any language should be totally extinguished. The similitude and derivation of languages afford the most indubitable proof of the traduction of nations, and the genealogy of mankind. They add often physical certainty to historical evidence; and often supply the only evidence of ancient migrations, and of the revolutions of ages which left no written monuments behind them.
    Every man's opinions, at least his desires, are a little influenced by his favourite studies. My zeal for languages may seem, perhaps, rather over-heated, even to those by whom I desire to be well-esteemed. To those who have nothing in their thoughts but trade or policy, present power, or present money, I should not think it necessary to defend my opinions; but with men of letters I would not unwillingly compound, by wishing the continuance of every language, however narrow in its extent, or however incommodious for common purposes, till it is reposited in some version of a known book, that it may be always hereafter examined and compared with other languages, and then permitting its disuse.”

    I think Johnson would be quite pleased with the Rosetta Project.

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