Language as cultural heritage - Promoting research and public awareness on the Internet

Levinson, S. C., & Wittenburg, P. (2001). Language as cultural heritage - Promoting research and public awareness on the Internet. In J. Renn (Ed.), ECHO - An Infrastructure to Bring European Cultural Heritage Online (pp. 104-111). Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.
The ECHO proposal aims to bring to life the cultural heritage of Europe, through internet technology that encourages collaboration across the Humanities disciplines which interpret it – at the same time making all this scholarship accessible to the citizens of Europe. An essential part of the cultural heritage of Europe is the diverse set of languages used on the continent, in their historical, literary and spoken forms. Amongst these are the ‘hidden languages’ used by minorities but of wide interest to the general public. We take the 18 Sign Languages of the EEC – the natural languages of the deaf - as an example. Little comparative information about these is available, despite their special scientific importance, the widespread public interest and the policy implications. We propose a research project on these languages based on placing fully annotated digitized moving images of each of these languages on the internet. This requires significant development of multi-media technology which would allow distributed annotation of a central corpus, together with the development of special search techniques. The technology would have widespread application to all cultural performances recorded as sound plus moving images. Such a project captures in microcosm the essence of the ECHO proposal: cultural heritage is nothing without the humanities research which contextualizes and gives it comparative assessment; by marrying information technology to humanities research, we can bring these materials to a wider public while simultaneously boosting Europe as a research area.
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