Second International Conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace

We believe that every language has inherent value, and that speakers of minority languages and other interested parties should have the tools and techniques available to protect and enhance their cultural and linguistic heritage. In many cases around the world, we have witnessed renewed language vitality as members of a language community are equipped with the capacity to use their language in new and different areas of life.

- William McLendon, Jr., SIL International Associate Director of Global Technology and Information Services

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(July 2011) Multilingualism and the Internet was the focus of a conference which drew one hundred registrants from thirty-one countries. The Second International Conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace was held 12-14 July in Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic, in the Russian Federation. Speaking in Russian or English, eighteen plenary speakers addressed the conference. Participants also had a choice of nine breakout sessions with a total of sixty-one presentations for the entire conference.

Of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken worldwide today, researchers estimate only 300-500 are represented on the Internet. This conference brought together specialists from around the globe to exchange information and pursue better solutions on behalf of all language communities. Attendees were pleased to see significant developments on the technical and policy fronts since the first conference in 2008 at which the Lena Resolution was adopted.

Session Topics

  • Digital multilingualism for the construction of inclusive societies
  • Public policies on languages in cyberspace
  • Developing legal and institutional instruments to support multilingualism
  • Implementing existing normative instruments (UNESCO 2003 Recommendation concerning the promotion of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace)
  • Using the Internet to counter the marginalization of languages
  • Multilingualism as an Internet governance issue
  • Cyberspace and education in the mother tongue
  • Multilingualism and information literacy
  • Tools and techniques to ensure the presence in cyberspace of languages that are currently underrepresented or absent

two photos: conference participants, McLendon with colleagues


Above: International conference participants at the event in Yakutsk; McClendon (left) with Adama Samassekou (center), President of the Maaya World Network for Linguistic Diversity and Jan Henry Keskitalo (right), Vice President of Indigenous Affairs, Sami University College, University of the Arctic, Norway

Facilitating Multilingualism in Cyberspace

William McLendon, Jr., SIL International Associate Director of Global Technology and Information Services, presented a paper in one of plenary sessions entitled, “New developments and trends to facilitate multilingualism in cyberspace.”

SIL has placed a high priority on making digital technologies accessible to all language communities. To that end, SIL software developers and other technical experts are working to develop computing solutions to facilitate representation and access for minority language communities.

McLendon’s presentation highlighted several significant areas of contribution by SIL:

  • ScriptSource: a newly-launched, web-based resource which facilitates computer implementation for writing systems
  • The Open Language Archive Virtual Library (OLAC)
  • FLEx and WeSay: software for language documentation

In addition to these specific applications, SIL is actively involved in supporting efforts to enhance data sharing through international standards such as ISO and Unicode.


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