Foundation for Endangered Languages

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6. Overheard on the Web

Has the Decline of World Languages been Overestimated?

From FOE-L: GEN 5 Global English Newsletter Issue 5 1999

The Future of English? suggests that an alarming proportion of the world's languages will be lost during the next century, although the spread of English is not directly to blame. The British linguist, David Dalby, disagrees with that analysis and argues that linguistic diversity is greater than most linguists imagine (nearer ten thousand languages in the world rather than six), and that the rate of language loss is slower than has been assumed.

A new Web site devoted to David Dalby's Linguasphere Observatory was launched recently and includes some of the material that will appear in a comprehensive Register of the World's Languages and Speech Communities. David Dalby describes the Linguasphere Observatory as 'an independent research network devoted to the study and promotion of multilingualism and the exploration of our global linguistic environment'.

The Linguasphere programme also features in a recent issue of the bilingual Geolinguistic Newsletter, edited by Grant McConnell. McConnell and colleagues are engaged in their own survey of the world's languages. An interesting preview of their work includes a map of English in education in parts of South East Asia and another which shows in which parts of the Philippines English is the 'language vehiculaire'.

Volunteers Needed to test CD-ROM "Western Mono Ways of Speaking."
31 Oct 1999

Paul Kroskrity and I are currently looking for 20 users of IBM computers with a 4X CD ROM drive to volunteer to beta-test our interactive CD-ROM "Taitaduhaan (Our Language): Western Mono Ways of Speaking." This CD-ROM contains a collection of 4 verbal art performances as well as background information about this Californian Indian language and community. The featured genres are performed by a prominent community elder, Rosalie Bethel, who is renown for her skills in story telling. The CD-ROM allows users to view entire movies with English sub-titles, view a sentence by sentence analysis of each performance, view a self-pronouncing pronunciation guide of all Western Mono vowels and consonants, and to access other texts written about the Western Mono speech community. We have only have a limited number of CDs made for beta-testing. So volunteers will be selected based on the sole criterion that they operate a type of computer configuration on which we have not yet had the opportunity to test the CD-ROM program.


Beta-testing is a stage in software design which allows programmers to figure out how well their program functions on different computer platforms by collecting data from different users regarding program design, functionality, and software incompatibilities. Even though our experiences with the CD have been showing it to be both virus-free and bug-free, we strongly recommend that normal precautions be taken when running this version. This includes using your own local form of virus scanning and making sure that you do not run this program on a machine that is task-dedicated (or where all or most of a particular project is located) since unpredictable interactions do occur which can result in data loss. Even though our program has never damaged existing programs on any machine which has played it, it is important to understand that we have tested it on a limited range of computers and that each machine can be uniquely stocked with potentially conflicting programs.

Volunteers who are selected on the basis of our need to contruct a distributed sample will receive a free copy of the CD-ROM by mail, instructions on how to install the program and a questionnaire. Volunteers will be asked to follow the guidelines provided in the questionnaire and answer a set of questions. We estimate that this process should take between 45 minutes to an hour to complete. We also ask that volunteers take no more than a week to complete and return the questionnaire to us after they receive their copy of the CD-ROM.

If you are interested in volunteering for this project, please contact either Paul Kroskrity (paulvk(at) or Jennifer Reynolds (jfreyn(at) and send us some basic information about your computer (type of computer, system software, type of drives, computer speed, RAM, etc.) and your address. We will choose and contact all volunteers once we feel that we have a variety of computers and systems represented in this study.