'The world has 6,000 to 7,000 languages, as many as half of which will be extinct by the end of this century. He estimates that there are fewer than 100 alphabets, many of which are also threatened with extinction ... Those 6,000-7,000 languages are written in fewer than 100 alphabets.' - Tim Brookes
The director of the writing program at Champlain College in Burlington, he considers himself an author — having written 13 books on topics as varied as hospices and the history of the guitar — and "essentially a curious person." In early 2009, the idea to carve them came after he stumbled on Omniglot, a website that culls the world's writing systems for study and perusal. "I had never heard of three-quarters of these scripts and languages," Mr. Brookes said. since 2008, when Mr. Brookes started making carvings on planks of curly maple as Christmas gifts for his family his passion in recent years: preserving alphabets at risk of vanishing
Moreover, at least a third of the world's remaining alphabets are endangered –- no longer taught in schools, no longer used for commerce or government, understood only by a few elders, restricted to a few monasteries or used only in ceremonial documents, magic spells, or secret love letters. The Endangered Alphabets Project, which consists of an exhibition of carvings and a book, is the first-ever attempt to bring attention to this issue – and to do so by creating unforgettable, enigmatic artwork. Every one of the Endangered Alphabets challenges our assumptions about language, about beauty, about the fascinating interplay between function and grace that takes place when we invent symbols for the sounds we speak, and when we put a word on a page—or a piece of bamboo, or a palm leaf.
The Endangered Alphabets are not only a unique and vivid way of demonstrating the issue of disappearing languages and the global loss of cultural diversity, they are also remarkable and thought-provoking pieces of art. These two threads interweave to raise all kinds of questions about writing itself: how it developed, how it spread across the globe, how the same alphabet took on radically different forms, like Darwin's finches, on neighboring islands, and how developments in technology affected writing, and vice versa. The Alphabets have been exhibited at Yale, Harvard, Cambridge (England), Barcelona, Rutgers, Middlebury, the University of Vermont, Champlain College, Central Connecticut State University, and other colleges, universities and libraries throughout the United States. In June 2013 they will be featured at the Smithsonian. For more, visit the Endangered Alphabets website.
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