ADVANTAGES

At first blush, digital communication seems to offer uniquely promising solutions to the endangered-language crisis. Basque blogs, a Faroese Wikipedia, iPad apps in Cherokee and Navajo, an operating system in Hawaiian, texting in Tlingit — these tremendous initiatives and many others like them have an iconic significance, especially for younger speakers, proclaiming to the world, “Our language has a future.” Disparate speakers, learners and resources can be linked across space and time, enhancing language teaching and bolstering efforts at language maintenance. Interactivity and crowdsourcing, made easier online, are just what small languages seem to need, given paltry or nonexistent governmental, institutional or corporate support. The production, dissemination and consumption of minority-language media have all become cheaper and easier — certainly an improvement over print production and television, which demanded serious startup resources. And if subcultures are famously flourishing online — everyone letting their inner freak flag fly — shouldn’t cultures? After all, the and seem to be doing pretty well.

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