[Air-l] Language on the Internet (was AoIR in Latin-America)

William Dutton william.dutton at oii.ox.ac.uk
Mon Apr 3 06:51:54 PDT 2006

Richard Rose has written an interesting paper relevant to this issue.  
See: R. Rose (2005), 'Language, soft power and asymmetrical Internet  
communication', Research Repot No. 7, Oxford: Oxford Internet  
Institute, April. Available on: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/resources/

On 3 Apr 2006, at 13:11, Cunliffe D J (Comp) wrote:

> Hi All,
> Joshua Raclaw wrote: "Are you suggesting that a spoken minority  
> language
> might actually become endangered because it doesn't have an online
> presence?  A vast majority of these minority languages don't even  
> have a
> writing system."
> This is a subject of great interest to me, I would have responded
> earlier but I have been busy and rather ill.
> To the best of my knowledge, there is no conclusive evidence regarding
> the relationship between online presence and language death.  
> However the
> assumption of a relationship is quite commonly held, though the nature
> of the relationship isn't always agreed upon:
> "The circumstances that have led to the present language mortality...
> [include]...electronic media bombardment, especially television, an
> incalculably lethal new weapon (which I have called 'cultural nerve
> gas')" Krauss, 1992, p6.
> "An endangered language will progress if its speakers can make use of
> electronic technology" Crystal, 2000, p141.
> However, it is important to recognise that all minority languages are
> not in the same boat. I totally agree that for some minority languages
> the Internet is totally irrelevant, but then for some so probably is
> printing. However for the larger minority languages, it seems to me  
> that
> the lack of a presence could indeed be argued to be contributing to a
> languages decline. Take Welsh as an example, approximately 800,000
> people with some language skill, good levels of education, high levels
> of exposure to computers in schools and in the home, reasonable levels
> of wealth. If Welsh is to be perceived as a modern living language,  
> then
> surely it must have a presence on the Internet (as in fact it does).
> Much of the argument is not so much about new opportunities to use the
> language, but more to do with status, prestige and relevance to the
> modern world (see for example Eisenlohr, 2004). How could you  
> convince a
> child going through Welsh medium education that their language was
> relevant if they never saw it on the Internet?
> The Catalans have recently gone so far as to establish a new top level
> Internet domain for their language/culture, so clearly they think  
> it is
> of relevance to their language (Gerrand, 2006).
> Each minority language exists in a unique context, any generalisations
> about what will or won't be beneficial are doomed to look absurd for
> specific languages.
> Of course an interesting aside on this is to wonder what will  
> happen to
> those languages that have a large real world speaker base but only  
> have
> minimal presence online. Are you going to see a decline in these
> languages, or will we have some languages that are minority languages
> online but not offline?
> I am very happy to talk about these issues whether here on the list or
> off-list, so please don't be shy :-)
> Daniel.
> Daniel Cunliffe
> School of Computing, university of Glamorgan.
> www.comp.glam.ac.uk/~Daniel.Cunliffe/
> D. Crystal, Language Death, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
> Eisenlohr, P. (2004) Language revitalization and new technologies:
> cultures of electronic mediation and the refiguring of communities.
> Annual review of Anthropology, 33, 21-45.
> Gerrand, P. (2006) Cultural diversity in cyberspace: the Catalan
> campaign to win the new .cat top level domain. First Monday 11 (1).
> Online document:
> http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_1/gerrand/index.html
> M. Krauss, "The world's languages in crisis", Language, 68 (1), pp.
> 4-10, 1992.
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