The Endangered Alphabets Project


There are somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 languages alive and active in the world today, but it is estimated that as many as half of them will be extinct by the end of this century. This means that not only many languages but also many alphabets and writing systems will be lost forever. Of these 6,000-7,000 remaining languages, there are only around 100 different alphabets in use.

But not if the Endangered Alphabets Project can help it – it has been discovered that of the 100 alphabets in use, around a third of them are endangered. That is to say, they are no longer being taught in schools, or being used by governments or commerce. They are used by elders, or monks, and are being passed down to the next generation only by word of mouth and tradition.

The project aims to put together a travelling exhibition, showcasing some of the world’s rarer writing systems in order to show their beauty and relevance to humanity. It hopes not only to stand as a record of these writing systems if and when they do become extinct, but also to show how similar alphabets evolved from one another, how they spread to other countries and cultures, and how they are more than just writing on a page or engravings in wood.

The founder of the project, Tim Brookes, also keeps a blog, which features posts and musings on various endangered alphabets.