Category Archives: Language and Linguistics


Digitizing Balinese Literature from Lontar Palm Leaves


May 7, 2019 ||

In 2011, the Internet Archive photographed nearly the entire collection of Balinese palm-leaf manuscripts (130,000 leaves in all) as part of an effort to bring out of the shadows the lesser-known literatures of the world and to inspire others to do the same. These traditional Balinese texts were inscribed with a special triangular iron stylus […]


Edible possession in Halmahera


April 9, 2019 ||

The island of Halmahera is a spider-shaped island located in Indonesia’s Maluku Islands. It was these islands, the so-called “spice islands”, that several European nations sought in the 15th and 16th centuries as the source of cloves, nutmeg, and mace. Along the east coast of Halmahera, the closely related Austronesian languages Patani and Sawai (among others) […]


The Most Common Words in PanLex


March 7, 2019 ||

The PanLex Database contains a large diversity of languages and dialects. This diversity allows us to explore interesting language facts, illuminated by casting PanLex’s wide net across the languages of the world. One question, originally suggested by our founder and director emeritus Dr. Jonathan Pool was: What’s the most common word in the PanLex Database? […]


Radically inclusive machine translation gets mainstream press


March 7, 2019 ||

In a recent article, linguist Gretchen McCulloch of WIRED magazine echoes PanLex’s series on radically inclusive machine translation. She notes that only a small number of languages have well-supported machine translation. Most of the world’s 7,000 languages have little or no machine translation support, including some with tens of millions of speakers. However, that could […]


Will climate change kill linguistic diversity? Or save it?


January 10, 2019 ||

Hidden in plain sight In 2010, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet thought leaders and funders, and raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution – which at the time was a largely unknown problem, and one almost completely absent from the societal discussion and the mainstream media. At a fundraiser event, I happened […]