Many indigenous languages alive in Mexico today don't have formal written systems, but a growing number of computer-savvy young people want to Facebook and tweet in their native tongue.
The trick is that, until recently, no formal writing system existed to represent the sounds and tones of eastern Chatino, an indigenous language spoken by 20 small communities in rural southern Oaxaca. Ms. Cruz, a doctoral candidate in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, had a hand in creating the alphabet she now uses to post messages on Facebook.
Social media have become a crucial bridge between the academics, activists, and young people who want to preserve the more than 360 variants of indigenous languages alive in Mexico today and the communities who actively use them. Many of these don't have any formal written system, but a growing number of indigenous young people, computer savvy and sometimes far from home, want to Facebook, tweet, and chat in their native tongue. Both through social media, and perhaps because of it, they're joining a burgeoning movement to create alphabets and a way to write previously unwritten languages like Chatino.
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