According to a team of European researchers, including scientists from the University of Manchester’s National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM), an astounding 21 European languages are facing digital extinction due to insufficient language technology software support.
In today’s high tech environment, language technology software is everything; it includes machine translation systems, web search engines, spelling and grammar checkers, speech processing, and smartphone personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri. The problem is these technologies are not available in most European languages.
The study evaluated language technology support (excellent, good, moderate, fragmentary and weak/no support) for each European language across four areas: automatic translation, speech interaction, text analysis and availability of language resources.
Receiving the lowest scores in all areas (weak/no support), Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese were at the highest risk for extinction. Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian and Polish showed fragmentary support and are therefore also at risk. Languages receiving moderate support included Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. View the complete results of the study here.
What do these results reveal? To the researchers it is clear: unless language technology support is available for these languages, they may soon disappear altogether from our digital world.