Tanja Schultz

Endangered languages

Languages are something like the holy Grale of human culture. We have language, and language has us. However, we have not only one, but many languages. How do we recognise them, and how do we maintain languages? Many languages are endangered and this means also that entire cultures are doomed to extinction. If a language disappears, it means that an entire cultural system is left without tools to express itself appropriately. While most people think about endangered languages in terms of minority languages, this is not necessarily true - there are widespread languages that are endangered, because they are under-resourced, i.e. their means of expression is not keeping pace with the degree of cultural complexity, they are supposed to convey. This problem is accentuated by the technological pressure to enable communication between humans and computer-based systems, such as voice recognition. If we are not able to educate computers to communicate on the human level, we soon will reduce our communication to the level functional with computers... So, language recognition systems are of vital importance, not only, because they help us to understand, what human language actually is, but also, because they have to be improved to maintain and develop human culture.


Tanja Schultz did her Ph.D. in informatics in Karlsruhe and went then as Research Scientist and Professor to the Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA, USA for six years. After returning in 2007 to the newly founded Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, she established the Cognitive Systems Lab (CSL), focussing on cognitive technical systems for human-machine interaction based on language and non-verbal signals. She links machine learning with principles derived from biological signalling, such as "soundless speech communication" or "airwriting". In 2015, she joined the University of Bremen and set up a biosignalling lab, where students and researchers work on human-centered cognitive communication systems.