Language and the Internet

(Axel Boer) #1

The language of the Web 219

of sites which provide the evidence.^43 They range from individ-
ual businesses doing their best to present a multilingual identity
to major sites collecting data on many languages. Under the for-
mer heading we encounter several newspapers, such as the Belgian
daily,LeSoir, which is represented by si xlanguages: French, Dutch,
English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Under the latter heading we
find such sites as the University of Oregon Font Archive, provid-
ing 112 fonts in their archives for over 40 languages – including,
in a nicely light-hearted addendum, Morse, Klingon, Romulan,
and Tolkien (Cirth, Elvish, etc.). The same centre’s Interactive Lan-
guage Resources Guide provides data on 115 languages.^44 AWorld
Language Resources site lists products for 728 languages.^45 Some
sites focus on certain parts of the world: an African resource list
covers several local languages; Yoruba, for example, is illustrated
by some 5,000 words, along with proverbs, naming patterns, and
greetings.^46 Anothersitedealswithnolessthan87Europeanminor-
ity languages.^47 Some sites are very small in content, but extensive
in range: one gives the Lord’s Prayer in nearly 500 languages.^48 No-
body has yet worked out just how many languages have obtained a
modicum of presence on the Web. I started to work my way down
theEthnologuelisting of the world’s languages,^49 and stopped when
I reached 1,000. It was not difficult to find evidence of a Net pres-
ence for the vast majority of the more frequently used languages,
and for a large number of minority languages too, especially in

(^43) The trend now extends beyond the Web to other Internet situations, where there are
signs of slow progress towards an increasing multilingualism. Chatgroups and MUDs
are steadily coming online in different languages: for example, Internet Relay Chat was
listing 20 languages in late 2000. The list is at
. Geoff Nunberg (personal communication) had by 1996 found some 60
44 Usenet groups wholly or partly using other languages. Examples of other resource sites are∼thorne/HumanResources.html,<
resource/language/language.htm>, the dictionary list athttp://www.yourdictionary.
, the Human Languages Page at, and the Lan-
guages on the Web site at,whichprovides
45 parallel translations of 55 languages.
48^49 Ethnologueis at

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