Sci/Tech

Linguistic study

Study reveals Basque language in danger of digital extinction

09/27/2012

The study, carried out by several universities, concludes that Basque language exhibits "fragmentary support", placing it also in the set of high-risk languages.

  • Languages such as Basque are in the set of high-risk languages

    Languages such as Basque are in the set of high-risk languages

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Most European languages, including minority language Basque, are unlikely to survive in the digital age, a new study by Europe’s leading Language Technology experts warns.

According to a report by the Public University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), the study that assessed language technology support for 30 languages in the European Union concluded that a total of 21 of the 30 languages (70%) were placed in the lowest category, "support is weak or non-existent".

The study "Europe's Languages in the Digital Age" was carried out by META-NET, a European network of excellence that consists of 60 research centres in 34 countries, working on the technological foundations of multilingual Europe.

The study, prepared by more than 200 experts and documented in 30 volumes of the META-NET White Paper Series (available both online and in print), assessed language technology support for each language in four different areas: automatic translation, speech interaction, text analysis and the availability of language resources.

While no language was considered to have "excellent support", only English was assessed as having "good support", followed by languages such as Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish with "moderate support".

Languages such as Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian and Polish exhibit “fragmentary support”, placing them also in the set of high-risk languages.

Experts conclude that "the results of the study are most alarming" as "the majority of European languages are severely under-resourced and some are almost completely neglected".

They also say that a "coordinated, large-scale effort has to be made in Europe to create the missing technologies as well as transfer technology to the majority of languages" and prepare them for the digital age as "they are a precious component of our cultural heritage".

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