Iceland's unique dialect picked up mainly from the ancient Nordic dialect of Old Norse is facing extinction, warn linguists. A major contributing factor to it is the inability of most artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to recognise the language.
While over-tourism, that promotes the dominant use of English language in Iceland, is seen as the other main reason for its extinction, the inability of computer programs to detect the language is moving away students and professionals from its usage, especially among the scientific and arts communities. Linguists say the language currently spoken by less than 400,000 people may be facing the beginning of its end.
Asgeir Jonsson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland, says most new computer devices are designed to recognise English but not Icelandic.
"Not being able to speak Icelandic to voice-activated fridges, interactive robots and similar devices would be yet another lost field," Jonsson told Skift.
Nordic ranks among the least-supported languages in digital technology — along with Irish Gaelic, Latvian, Maltese and Lithuanian — as per a report by the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance.
The Ministry of Education in Iceland estimates that about $8.8m (£6.8m) is needed for kick-starting an open-access database to help tech developers adapt Icelandic as a language option. While Google translate is one of the few systems to support the QWERTY keyboard function, it still misses the transliteration function. With transliteration, users can write words in a character set of the Latin alphabet which will be transposed to the original language.
Former president of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir also underlined the government's role in protecting the language particularly for computer programs so the language can be easily used in digital technology.