On Facebook nobody knows you’re a dead language
Friday was a day of great joy and merriment for seminarians, academics and other devotees of Latin following Facebook’s announcement that the world’s largest social networking website is now available in the language of Caesar.
“Most of the time when we stumble upon a Latin phrase, it’s etched in stone: carved in the hallways of universities, chiseled on facades of government buildings or carefully imprinted in cathedral foyers and churchyards,” read a Facebook blog post announcing the news.
“Yet beginning today, Latin – the staid and reliable language – springs to life on Facebook,” the post continues.
Even English monoglots may find that Latin Facebook has a familiar ring. The “chat” feature is labeled Colloqium. Requests are Petitiones.
Like all languages on Facebook, the Latin translation was created by Facebook’s users. According to Facebook there are an additional 55 languages currently being translated or in beta testing including Sanskrit, another language of the past.
The news may give hope to lovers of other dead and extinct tongues including Sumerian, Punic and Manx (a language of the Isle of Man whose last known native speaker died in 1974, according to Wikipedia).
Of course, there’s plenty of living languages for Facebook to focus on too.
The latest edition of Ethnologue lists 6,909 living languages, though 94 percent of them are spoken by only 6 percent of the world’s people.