Emily Taylor, lead author of the World Report for Internationalised Domain Names, has spoken to EURACTIV about the link between digitisation and the preservation of minority languages.
The article explores how many minority languages are at risk of extinction by the end of the century, but that they may have a chance at survival with the successful implementation of greater linguistic diversity online.
‘If you go online and there is absolutely nothing in your language, why go online?’, says Taylor, ‘major world languages such as Arabic or Hindi do not even account for a fraction of 1% of the web content.’
One of the key findings in the most recent World Report on Internationalised Domain Names was that IDNs are strongly linked to local content. The script of IDNs is a reliable signal of the language to be found on the websites associated with them, demonstrating that IDNs really do support linguistic diversity in cyberspace.
Taylor believes that governments and institutions can learn from these kinds of successes. “What the social media environment shows us is that when languages are supported people really use them, and they really appreciate it,” she said.
But there is more to that. Taylor defends the need to go further because the problem “it is not only to write and read content is the ability to navigate in your language”.
“We are talking about inclusion, diversity and the richness of the language,” and that is an area where the web environment needs to catch up,” she said.
Increased use of IDNs can be a key factor in increasing linguistically diverse online content, thereby protecting around 3000 languages that are in danger of extinction by the end of the century.
Emily Taylor is the CEO of Oxford Information Labs. She is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House and is the Editor of the Journal of Cyber Policy and co-founder of ICANN accredited registrar, Oxford Information Labs.
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