GEOGRAPHY IN THE NEWS:
We use written language to record the things we think are important -- memories, sacred texts, poems, legal documents.... When an alphabet falls out of use (due to conquest, political edict, demographic shift, or anything else), a people's collective memories are at risk of dissipating. This article looks at the effort to save not just endangered languages but endangered alphabets:
"By the most widely-quoted estimate, the world has between 6,000 and 7,000 languages, as many as half of which will be extinct by the end of this century. An even more dramatic sign of the rate at which the world’s cultural diversity is shrinking involves the alphabets in which those languages are written. Writing has become so dominated by a small number of global cultures that those 6,000-7,000 languages are written in perhaps 140 scripts. Moreover, at least a third of the world’s remaining alphabets are endangered – they’re no longer taught in schools, no longer used for commerce or government, never seen on television, in many cases incompatible with computer keyboards, understood only by a few elders, or used by only a handful of priests or monks. ...
The Endangered Alphabets team has partnered with preservation and revival groups in a dozen countries to create tangible items such as endangered alphabet rubber stamps so kids can have fun; packs of playing cards in alphabets from Bulgaria to Bangladesh; an endangered alphabet board game that is a cross between Cluedo and The Name of the Rose; colouring books; writers’ journals; illustrated children’s books based on folk tales gathered and retold by the children themselves; word search puzzles; and what I believe may be the world’s first six-language children’s picturebook dictionary for indigenous schoolchildren in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. ... My current project is to create a digital world atlas of endangered alphabets, with pins corresponding to the locations of cultures with endangered scripts."
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