Endangered languages don’t seem as self-evidently valuable as say, endangered species are to the functioning of a healthy ecosystem. As the famous example goes, Eskimo have numerous words to describe what in English would simply be called “snow” and “ice.” This suggests that languages, besides translating universal ideas into different spellings, encode different concepts.

The Rosetta Project is The Long Now Foundation’s first exploration into very long-term archiving. It 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. Its goal is a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,500 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.

The first prototype of the Rosetta project is The Rosetta Disk – a three inch diameter nickel disk with nearly 14,000 pages of information microscopically etched onto its surface. Since each page is an image, it can be read by the human eye using powerful optical magnification. The disk rests in a sphere made of stainless steel and glass which allows it exposure to the atmosphere, but protects it from casual impact and abrasion.

What kind of information should go into such a long term archive? There are many possibilities: a collection of the world’s greatest literature, known cures for the diseases that plague humanity, blueprints for recreating major technology… the idea is to have a thorough understanding of a linguistic message, by recognising the importance of not only what is said, but also how it was said. Looking for high calibre linguistic services? Ask SanTranslate.