International conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace

(July 2008) A conference about multilingualism on the World Wide Web drew 105 registrants from 15 countries 2–4 July to Yakutsk, the capital of Siberia, in the Russian Federation. The designation by the United Nations of the year 2008 as the International Year of Languages formed the backdrop for Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace, a collaboration between UNESCO offices and domestic governmental agencies.

Of nearly 7,000 languages on earth today, less than one hundred are represented in the digital world. Speaking in Russian or English, ten plenary speakers addressed the complete conference. Participants then chose from five work sections, containing 48 papers.

Work Sections

  • Political, ethical and legal aspects of the development of multilingualism in cyberspace
  • Internet and other media
  • The role of libraries in the preservation of linguistic and cultural diversity
  • Languages and education
  • The preservation and development of cultural diversity

SIL Technology for Multilingualism in Cyberspace

SIL's work involves developing technologies that allow all languages to be represented and used in the rapidly changing world of information technology and cyberspace. Plenary speaker William W. McLendon, Jr., Director of IT Technical Services, SIL, presented his paper, "SIL Technology for Multilingualism in Cyberspace." Significant areas of SIL contribution were outlined as follows.

  • SIL has ongoing research and development efforts addressing three key areas for any given language to be represented on a computer: input methods, encoding methods and rendering methods.
  • SIL has been designated as the ISO 639-3 Registration Authority for three-letter codes identifying more than 7,500 human languages, whether living, extinct, ancient, historical or artificial.
  • SIL has developed over 60 distinct software applications to support the work of its field staff, most available for free download.
  • One new area of focus is facilitating technical solutions in support of the many signed languages of the world.
  • A concern of many is the large number of undocumented languages that are endangered. SIL is working diligently to make available on the Web information we have concerning the languages in which we have worked. SIL also partners with others such as the Maaya World Network for Linguistic Diversity.


  • Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
  • Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography
  • Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO
  • Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Program
  • Interregional Library Cooperation Centre
  • UNESCO Moscow Office
  • National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
  • National Committee of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for UNESCO

Financial Support

  • Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
  • Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography
  • UNESCO Moscow Office
  • Interregional Library Cooperation Centre

Related links of interest