On May 9th, UNESCO officially launched the World Language Documentation Centre. While the WLDC has a mission broadly defined as “championing linguistic research and facilitating the needs of linguistic communities”, they initially seem to be focused primarily on promoting multilingualism in cyberspace. The OmegaWiki is an example of the type of initiative in which they are currently involved. The prime sponsor of the WLDC is GeoLang (the successor to Linguishphere) who is the registration authority for the ISO 639-6 database. (The ISO 639-6 standard is a system for identifying not only languages, but also variants within each language.)
I am quite appreciative of the commitment of the UNESCO Endangered Languages Programme to promote and safeguard endangered languages. The WDLC is obviously an extension of that commitment, and for that I am pleased. But, it is not yet clear what place the WDLC has in the current landscape of organizations involved with language documentation. For example, there are already a number of initiatives to provide Internet based language archives like the Rosetta Project, and organizations working to coordinate language documentation efforts like the Open Languages Archives Community. I am eager to understand how the WLDC’s work will complement and not compete with, or duplicate, the work already being done elsewhere.
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