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Dinnae haud yer wheesht ... team collating all languages on planet lands in Scotland

THE plan is to collect and collate every single language on earth - whether it is spoken by billions or just a handful of people in some remote corner of the planet.

Daniel Bogre Udell founded the project with friend Freddie Andrade, inset right, said the intention behind the project was to celebrate the diversity of the world's languagesPhotographs: Noa Grant
Daniel Bogre Udell founded the project with friend Freddie Andrade, inset right, said the intention behind the project was to celebrate the diversity of the world's languagesPhotographs: Noa Grant

And this week Scots and Gaelic are to be added to the ambitious Wikitongues project which is currently compiling the first ever complete compendium of the world's 7000-plus spoken languages.

The Wikitongues initiative is aiming to document on video everything from the most widely used languages such as English and Mandarin to those which are spoken by only a few hundred people, such as Daakaka in the Vanuatu island nation of the South Pacific. The videos will then be archived online and become an encyclopedia of language, like wikipedia is an encyclopedia of knowledge.

Daniel Bogre Udell, a web developer from New York, who co-founded the project with friend Freddie Andrade, will visit Scotland this week to record examples of the Scots language - which includes variants such as Doric and Lowland Scots - and Gaelic to add to the collection. He said he was inspired by a love of languages to start Wikitongues, which aims to allow everyone to access the diversity of languages around the world.

Udell said: "In terms of really accessing the scope of linguistic diversity that exists in this world, there are no resources available.

"There is some translation software and language learning software that usually deals with anything between 40 to 70 languages and one encyclopedic list of all the world's languages, but that's it. I thought there was an opportunity to explore this diversity on a much grander scale."

Udell, 23, began the project a year ago by recording people talking in New York and publishing the videos on a YouTube channel. The initiative has since attracted volunteers from Lithuania, Vanuatu, the US, Russia, Kosovo, Argentina and Italy.

Among the examples which has been submitted is a language from Emao island in Vanuatu which remains "unclassified", Udell said. It is known that the community which uses the language is relatively small, but there are no official figures on the number of speakers.

Udell now plans to establish Wikitongues as a "not-for-profit" organisation to develop the idea further. This would include building a site to allow people to submit their own videos and translate examples into any other language, as well as compiling new phrase books by crowdsourcing useful words and phrases. He said: "It is figuring out a way to facilitate language education for all the world's languages."

He will be in the UK this week and plans to record 10 to 12 interviews spanning Scots, Scottish Gaelic and also Welsh.

Around 100 language examples have been collected to date. But he is optimistic that the project will grow more quickly as greater numbers of people get involved.

"We have maybe collected about 1% of the world's languages so far," he said. "If we continue at that rate it is going to take us 100 years (to complete).

"But as our community of volunteers continues to grow and as we as an organisation formalise and are able to tap into access for funds and empower our volunteers to be more ambitious in the scope of their recording, I think it is possible to get it done in a much shorter period of time.

"There are some efforts out there that are dealing with the 'preservation' of minority languages, but that is not what we are trying to do.

He added: "We don't want to reinforce minority languages as being minority languages, we want to show all languages on a equal footing and from that we hope there is a better appreciation of diversity.

"We hope linguistic preservation comes from that, but the mission more is a celebration of all languages of people."

Professor Donna Heddle, director of the centre for Nordic Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: "I am delighted that the many rich and diverse varieties of Scots will form part of this project. Scots was historically and is becoming once again a great European literary language so no initiative of this sort would be complete without it."

A spokeswoman for the Scots Language Society said it was an "amazing and ambitious project".

She added: "As Scots is often wrongly considered to be a dialect or bad English, it is encouraging to have its status as a distinct language acknowledged.

"And as many of the lesser spoken languages are dying out, it is invaluable to have this record made of them while they are still available."

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