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Rosetta Project

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Rosetta Project
Rosetta disk.jpg
One goal of the project is the three-inch nickel Rosetta Disk, on which will be etched 13,000 microscopic pages of text.
Mission statement The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible digital library of human languages.
Commercial? No
Type of project Archival of human languages
Products Rosetta Disk
Status Active

The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to develop a contemporary version of the historic Rosetta Stone to last from 2000 to 12,000 AD; it is run by the Long Now Foundation. Its goal is a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,500 languages. Some of these languages have fewer than one thousand speakers left. Others are considered to be dying out because government centralization and globalization are increasing the prevalence of English and other major languages. The intention is to create a unique platform for comparative linguistic research and education, as well as a functional linguistic tool that might help in the recovery or revitalisation of lost languages in the future.[1][2]

The project is creating this broad language archive through an open contribution, open review process similar to the strategy that created the original Oxford English Dictionary. The resulting archive will be publicly available in three different media: a HD-Rosetta micro-etched nickel alloy disc three inches (7.62 cm) across with a 2,000 year life expectancy; a single volume monumental reference book; and a growing online archive.


Fifty to ninety percent of the world's languages (in red) are predicted to disappear in the next century

Fifty to ninety percent of the world's languages are predicted to disappear in the next century, many with little or no significant documentation.[citation needed] Much linguistic description, especially the description of languages with few speakers, remains hidden in personal research files or poorly preserved in under-funded archives.

As part of the effort to secure this critical legacy of linguistic diversity, the Long Now Foundation plans a broad online survey and near-permanent physical archive of 1,500 of the approximately 7,000 human languages.

The project has three overlapping goals:

  1. to create an unprecedented platform for comparative linguistic research and education
  2. to develop and widely distribute a functional linguistic tool that might help with the recovery of lost or compromised languages in unknown futures
  3. to offer an aesthetic object that suggests the immense diversity of human languages as well as the very real threats to the continued survival of this diversity

The 1,500-language corpus expands on the parallel-text structure of the original Rosetta Stone through archiving ten descriptive components for each of the 1,500 selected languages.

The goal is an open source "Linux of Linguistics"—an effort of collaborative online scholarship drawing on the expertise and contributions of thousands of academic specialists and native speakers around the world. The project is also organising formal archive research groups at Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, the American Library of Congress, and the American Summer Institute of Linguistics (and its offices in Dallas).

The resulting Rosetta archives will be publicly available in three different media:

  1. a free and continually growing online archive
  2. a single-volume monumental reference book
  3. an extreme-longevity micro-etched disc

Plans envisage the global distribution of significant numbers of these discs with protective containers to individuals, institutions and others who care to keep one.

A "Version 1.0" of the HD-Rosetta disc was completed on November 3, 2008.[3] The disc contains over 13,000 pages of language documentation, which can be read after magnifying by 650 times with a microscope. As of 2011, a mass-production version of the disk is planned, but not currently in production. The online library, however, continues to grow.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ The Rosetta Project, Presented by Maria Zijlstra on Lingua Franca, 24 March 2012, ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  2. ^ Dr. Laura Welcher – The Rosetta Project & The Language Commons, March 7th, 2011, by Austin Brown, Blog of the Long Now
  3. ^ Macro to micro etching, November 3rd, 2008, by Alexander Rose, The Long Now Foundation's Blog

External links

  • Official website
  • Dan Farber, "The Rosetta Project: Rescuing languages", ZDNet May 25, 2005 Archived copy
  • Rosetta Project film
  • Rosetta Project on the Internet Archive
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