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ccTLDs promote linguistic diversity

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 by Helge

There are over 6000 languages ​​spoken in the world. On the Internet, however, one language predominantly dominates – just over half of all websites have English as thecountry-domain-mapir primary language. However, this varies greatly depending on which top-level domain the site uses. A new survey by CENTR (The Council for European National Top Level Domain Registries) shows that the majority of sites under a ccTLD (ie a national top-level domain like .DE) or a regional top-level domain that many cities offer, also use it local language.

As part of CENTR’s 20th Anniversary, Oxford Information Labs were hired to test the hypothesis that ccTLDs promote local languages. A request to assist the survey went out to CENTR members.

Most ccTLD operators do not normally make their zone files publicly available. In other words, researchers who wanted to study linguistic diversity on the Internet have in principle never had access to raw data on websites under the various ccTLDs. This time, however, an exception was made. Thanks to the cooperation of the CENTR members, Oxford Information Labs got a unique and unlimited access to zone files and was able to make a great language analysis for 16.4 million domain names under ten different top-level domains, including .SE.

Local languages ​​dominate on local domains

After the extensive analysis, it was clear that on average 76 percent of the web content linked to each top level domain also reflects the languages ​​spoken in the country or region in question. English accounted for 19 percent of the web content and other languages ​​accounted for 4 percent.

English is almost exclusively the second largest language in all top-level domains (which are not English-speaking basically) and then follows languages ​​in neighboring countries or belonging to the same language family. For example, Swedish is most common as a third language (after English, therefore) under Denmark’s .DK, but German is the most common third language under .SE. Similarly, the Spanish is the most common third language under the .PT, which is Portugal’s ccTLD and Bulgarian most common during Russian .RU. However, the presence of the third language is quite low, usually less than 5 percent of the total content. English was, as I said, strongly present in all top-level domains in the study, but in all cases lay far below the global average.

Minority languages ​​unusual online

One goal, and hope, that CENTR had with the survey was to investigate how passport represented minority languages ​​are online. 2019 is UNESCO’s International Year for Domestic Languages, an initiative that seeks to highlight the 2680 languages ​​at risk of extinction. Europe has several languages ​​on the UNESCO list of endangered languages, such as Corsican, Galician, Irish, Welsh and Basque. As mentioned, the Internet favors English and other large languages, and according to CENTR, threatened languages ​​are unfortunately even more rare on the web than they are in the offline world.

Therefore, CENTR and Oxford Information Labs examined whether the different top-level domains had domestic or endangered languages ​​represented in the web content analyzed. For example, one was interested in seeing if Sami (spoken by more than 30,000 people in Scandinavia) were present during .SE or .NU (which has Swedish as the most common language), but since Sami is not yet supported by translation functions to investigate fully. One of the relatively few minority languages ​​that have their own top-level domain is Catalan, whose .CT is well-used in the region.

Interesting is also, as the CENTR points out, that large world languages ​​such as Arabic and Hindi, spoken by over one billion people offline, have a very, very modest presence on world websites. In summary, English is, of course, the main language online – but the local top-level domains are dominated by the local languages.

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