Saving vanishing ‘tongues’

Many languages disappear every year. In a race against time, language researchers are using digital technology to preserve those tongues from extinction

By Stephen Ornes, 04:14 AM May 23, 2014

Ong uyan madongo?

You probably don’t know how to answer that question — unless you happen to be one of the roughly 430 people in the world who speak a language called Matukar Panau. Then you would know it means, “How are you?”

Matukar Panau is one of the world’s rarest languages. It is spoken in just two small coastal villages in Papua New Guinea. This tropical island nation lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Until five years ago, David Harrison, a language expert at Swarthmore College in Penn...

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