The Minister of Education and Research of the Republic of Estonia, Mr Tõnis Lukas, has initiated a language-themed undertaking with which we are celebrating an occasion that is of great importance to our country – the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.
Furthermore, 2008 is UNESCO’s International Year of Languages and the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The unique nature of Europe is reflected in its multilingualism and linguistic and cultural diversity.
Every language has its pearls of wisdom, collected down the generations, and is the most valuable and beautiful treasure in the world to those who speak it as their native language. Many peoples have legends about the beauty of their languages and how they sound. Many know the legend of the competitions that were once held to find the language with the most beautiful sound. Estonia’s northern neighbours, the Finns, know the story of their famous singer Aino Ackte, who presented the phrase Aja hiljaa sillalla at the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Finnish ended runner-up in that contest to Italian. Estonians know a similar legend about their own language.
Some philologists have expressed their fear that a great number of the languages spoken in the world, including some spoken in Europe, could die out as early as this century. What would help to preserve the linguistic diversity of Europe and the world? What could boost the vitality of languages in the 21st century? A possible solution is the technological sustainability of a language, which gives even those languages spoken by relatively few people a chance of survival.
Estonian language experts plan to synthesise the phrases proffered by students and language enthusiasts as being characteristic of Estonia using the speech synthesisers of other languages. Collocating the Estonian phrases issued by the speech synthesisers, it is possible for every interested Estonian to compare the results and to identify the idiosyncratic sounds of their language. Citizens of other European countries could become aware of the unique sounds of their own languages in the same way. People would have the opportunity to discover what is beautiful and special about their native languages.
Chief coordinator of the project in Estonia:
Mr Toomas Liivamägi
Adviser to the Minister
phone: +372 735 0132, fax: +372 735 0250
Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Estonia
Munga St. 18, 50088 Tartu