Endangered Alphabets

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According to the Endangered Alphabets Project, the 6,000-7,000 languages spoken on this planet are written in fewer than 100 alphabets. And, at least a third of those remaining alphabets are considered endangered. The project exhibits fourteen of those scripts: Inuktitut, Baybayin, Manchu, Bugis, Bassa Vah, Cherokee, Samaritan, Mandaic, Syriac, Khmer, Pahauh Hmong, Balinese, Tifinagh and Nom.

“In each case, the text is the same–namely, Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in 1948 at the foundation of the United Nations: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The irony, of course, is that many of these forms of writing are endangered precisely because human beings do not always act towards one another in that spirit.”


Lisa Dusenbery is the former managing editor of The Rumpus. More from this author →