Community & Non-Profit
Community and Non-Profit
The movements featured in Language Matters have been driven by groups like the Welsh Language Society and ‘Aha Pūnana Leo. More than ever, community organizations, non-profits, tribal councils, language committees, and more informal groups are at the forefront of documenting, preserving, and revitalizing endangered languages. These established organizations, only a partial list, are going beyond individual languages to address the broader crisis:
Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (California, USA)
Native-run non-profit whose mission is “to foster the restoration and revival of indigenous California languages.” AICLS coordinates the well-known Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program, which pairs a fluent speaker (Master) with a younger member of the tribe (Apprentice) for an extended, immersive period. Over 70 teams have graduated, 30 are now in training – and the model is being adopted in several other communities around the world.
Endangered Language Alliance (New York City, USA)
Non-profit focused on documenting and supporting the immense linguistic diversity of urban areas, especially New York City, where up to 800 languages may be spoken. ELA collaborates with indigenous, immigrant, and refugee communities on a range of documentation, revitalization, and outreach programs, including language classes, documentation projects on several dozen languages, and the public series “Unheard Of,” which showcases endangered global literature.
Endangered Languages Project
Collaborative online effort allowing the public “to record, access, and share samples of and research on endangered languages” – a crowdsourced digital database where linguists, activists, and the public exchange advice, feedback, and best practices. Anyone can upload their own materials, and thousands of recordings and documents are now easily searchable and accessible. The project is run by the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, a diverse coalition of non-profits, academic institutions, and community groups, with technical assistance and initial funding from Google.
First Languages Australia
Advocacy organization working “to ensure that the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members are voiced in key decision-making processes that impact on the current and future management of their languages.” First Languages holds discussions with communities, government officials, and other groups, with a focus on sharing resources, experience, and expertise.
Indigenous Language Institute (New Mexico, USA)
Educational institute primarily assisting indigenous peoples of North America with tribal language programs through research, teaching, and information sharing. The institute has helped tribes design and produce textbooks, teaching aids, films, brochures, posters, toys, and signage, among other tools.
Language Landscape (UK)
Non-profit best known for crowdsourced, user-friendly language maps, which allow anyone to upload recordings and embed them in searchable maps.
Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages (Oregon, USA)
Linguist-led non-profit involved in the full range of endangered language documentation, maintenance, and revitalization, leverage linguistic expertise to assist with community-driven, multi-media projects. Living Tongues partnered with National Geographic on the Enduring Voices project, a documentation effort focused on language hotspots, and has producing a series of online “Talking Dictionaries.”
Linguapax (Barcelona, Spain)
Non-profit “dedicated to the appreciation and protection of linguistic diversity worldwide,” inspired by the Catalan language movement and supported by Catalan institutions. Linguapax operates as an international network of advocates and researchers focused on sociolinguistic research, political activism (including legislation), and multilingual education.
Museums focused on linguistic diversity include The World Language Centre in Reykjavik, Iceland; the National Language Museum in College Park, Maryland, USA. Many others are devoted to individual languages or the languages of particular regions.
Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (Australia)
Network of linguists and language activists, with a particular strength in Australian Aboriginal languages and a goal of increasing community participation in language documentation and revitalization. Focused on training, resource sharing, networking, and advocacy, RNLD maintains an active electronic infrastructure including online resources, discussions, and social media.
Rosetta Project (California, USA)
Project “working to build a publicly accessible digital library of human languages,” which currently contains 70,000 pages of language documentation on over 2,500 languages – in many cases “parallel texts” from different languages, like the Book of Genesis and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Rosetta Project has held a public, one-day Record-a-thon – 100 recordings made in 35 different languages – and has been developing a microetched disk, designed to last for millennia and including texts from over 1,500 languages.
Society for Endangered Languages (Germany)
Non-profit organization founded by German linguists “to further the use, preservation, and documentation of endangered languages and dialects.” The Society has made small grants to support projects on individual languages.
Program working to raise awareness about cultural and linguistic diversity, through conservation (building a database of images, sounds, and texts), video footage (on its YouTube channel), and other initiatives.
Summer Institute of Linguistics (USA)
Large Christian non-profit working with communities around the globe to “build capacity for sustainable language development”—through research, translation, training, and materials development. With a staff of over 4,400, SIL has worked on over 2,167 languages and is known for Ethnologue (its database of the world’s languages) as well as Bible translations and specialized software tools for language documentation.
International non-profit working “to sustain the biocultural diversity of life — the world’s precious heritage of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity.” Terralingua explicitly links the disappearance of languages and cultures to the ongoing extinction of plant and animal species. Terralingua sponsors research, education, public policy, and community initiatives that connect the two crises, like Voices of the Earth, an oral literature documentation project undertaken with the Saanich and Chilcotin (Tsilhqot’in) First Nations peoples of British Columbia.
Many of the Hawaiian language activists interviewed in Language Matters are affiliated with the University of Hawai‘i; linguists like Nick Evans and Ruth Singer, shown doing fieldwork on Goulburn Island, are researchers at Australian universities. A growing number of academic institutions, usually through their linguistics departments, now offer courses and degree programs on endangered language documentation, description, and revitalization. Many others focus on the languages of a particular country or region. In the U.S., the Less Commonly Taught Languages Project at the University of Minnesota provides a guide to institutions and resources for the teaching and learning of lesser-known languages, including some that are threatened. UNESCO has compiled a global list of universities that offer relevant degrees and courses. The following are some of the leading academic centers for the study of endangered languages, around the world and for particular regions:
Alaska Native Language Center (Alaska, USA)
Officially established by the state of Alaska and based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, this academic center serves as “a center for the documentation and cultivation of the state’s 20 Native languages.” ANLC researchers have published story collections, dictionaries, grammars, and research papers, and assembled an archive containing “virtually everything written in or about Alaska Native languages.” The Center also offers classes and degrees focused on certain languages, helps Native communities prepare materials for education and revitalization programs, and working with teachers, school districts, and government agencies around the state.
American Indian Language Development Institute (University of Arizona, USA)
Institute at the University of Arizona, providing training for indigenous language revitalization efforts, especially in North America. ALIDI hosts conferences, workshops, and training sessions, working with schools, teachers, indigenous communities, and policymakers to further the learning of endangered languages.
Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group (UK)
Forum for interdisciplinary research and ideas exchange on “the theory, methodology and practice of endangered language and culture documentation.” The group holds academic workshops, seminars, and occasional public events on linguistic diversity and cultural heritage at the University of Cambridge, including the Cambridge Conference on Language Endangerment.
Center for Endangered Language Documentation (Papua New Guinea): base for language documentation and description at the Universitas Negeri Papua (UNIPA) in Manokwari, Papua New Guinea, one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world
Committee for Endangered Languages and Their Preservation (Linguistic Society of America)
Standing committee within the world’s largest professional organization for linguists, formed as an official response from the field of linguistics to the endangered languages crisis. The committee’s work is focused on raising awareness among linguists and the wider public, promoting ethical and strategic collaboration between linguists and communities, and coordinating with other academic and professional organizations.
Endangered Language Academic Programme (School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK)
Part of the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, which also includes a funding initiative [Link to Funders > Endangered Languages Documentation Programme TK] and an archive [Link to Archives > Endangered Languages Archive TK], this academic program is part of the oldest Department of Linguistics in the UK and offers a full suite of graduate courses on endangered language issues. Degrees granted include an MA in Language Documentation and Description, a Ph.D. in Field Linguistics, and two-year post-doctoral fellowships. Research covers the languages of Europe, Asia, and Aboriginal Australia, much of it published in the project’s Language Documentation and Description series.
Endangered Language Initiative (City University of New York, USA)
Research initiative to promote research on and teaching about endangered languages, in New York City and around the world. The program sponsors workshops, talks, visiting scholars, and other events, pairing students with the non-profit Endangered Language Alliance for fieldwork.
First Nations Languages Program (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Academic program offering a range of courses on language documentation, conservation, and revitalization, focused on the 32 surviving First Nations languages of British Columbia, all considered critically endangered.
International Centre for Language Revitalization (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
Program within Te Ipukarea: The National Māori Language Institute, focused on developing research and expertise in endangered language revitalization, drawing on the lessons of Māori language movement. The Centre is creating online tools and offering a Master’s degree in Language Revitalisation Online, conceived for indigenous language activists around the world.
Research center (website in Portuguese) focused on the many indigenous languages of Brazil. LALI linguists are involved in documentation, analysis, and description and also working in partnership with indigenous communities on dictionaries, school curricula, and other language development projects.
Recovering Voices (Washington D.C., USA)
Program of the Smithsonian Institution, “the world’s largest museum and research complex,” supported by the U.S. government. Recovering Voices works with Native communities in North America to “identify, share, and return cultural heritage and knowledge held by the Smithsonian and other institutions.” Recovering Voices also connects communities and linguists to help make those archival materials useful for present-day revitalization projects – most recently through its National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages, a two-week, hands-on workshop.
The Linguistics Department at the University of Hawai‘i is both a center for the study of Hawaiian and a hub for research on endangered languages across Asia and the Pacific. The department grants a Master’s degree in Language Documentation and Conservation and is home to the open-access academic journal Language Documentation & Conservation and the International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation, a gathering of linguists and language activists held every two years.
Proper documentation leads to what linguist Nikolaus Himmelmann has called a “lasting, multi-purpose record of a language.” However they are presented and used today, most materials relating to endangered languages are also archived for long-term preservation. Some archives focus on the languages of a particular region; others include the work undertaken at certain universities or under certain grant programs. Today all are focused on digital materials, which are increasingly accessible online to linguists, speakers, communities and the public, depending on access and privacy concerns. Archival standards and practices are evolving fast.
AILLA: Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (USA)
Digital archive of recordings and texts in and about the indigenous languages of Latin America, run by the University of Texas. AILLA includes languages from the U.S.-Mexico border to the southern tip of South America, including the Caribbean, featuring audio and video recordings of stories, chants, conversations, songs, and more, as well as grammars, dictionaries, ethnographies, field notes, and teaching materials.
Catalog and online archive focused onthe indigenous languages of California, western North America, and the Americas more broadly, run by the University of California, Berkeley. Many materials are from the century-old Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, a research center focused on the native languages of California and the Americas. There are primary source materials in at least 130 Native languages, including many paper records, field notes, and other documentary materials, only some of them digitized.
DOBES: Documentation of Endangered Languages (Netherlands)
Archive containing materials from DOBES (Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen), a documentation program funded by the Volkswagen Foundation which ran from 2000 to 2011 at the Max Planck Institute and funded 67 academic documentation projects all over the world. DOBES emphasized standardized best practices and collaborative documentation by teams of experts; the research portal contains extensive materials on 68 endangered languages.
ELAR: Endangered Languages Archive (UK)
Archive of the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, with a core collection based on the 300 projects funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme [Link to Funders TK], from all over the world. ELAR emphasizes safe long-term access that follows the wishes of both documenters and language communities, as well as ease of use and accessibility for a wider public.
Online suite of web-based tools and services for indigenous language activists and teachers, including an archive containing thousandsof text entries as well as sounds, pictures, videos, and games for use in language learning.
Pangloss Collection (France)
Public archive from the interdisciplinary LACITO research unit, containing nearly 200 hours of recordings in 70 languages, with a focus on oral traditions.
PARADISEC: Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (Australia)
Archive focused on the endangered languages and cultures of the Asia-Pacific region, also accepting relevant materials from all over the world. PARADISEC works to make materials available to those recorded, their descendants, and the broader language community and takes an active role in the technical work of data management.
Archive of oral literature in endangered languages, particularly from the Asia-Pacific region, including ritual texts, epic poems, songs, folk tales, creation myths, word games, life histories, historical narratives and other material collected by the Project’s grant recipients.
Funding for endangered language work often comes from local community sources, or is does on a shoestring. In some cases, governments and corporations contribute. Some funding is available only to those at academic institutions; other funding is targeted at community members who speak the language in question. Below are some of the organizations, particularly in the US and UK, which have been among the largest and most consistent funders in this area:
Funding partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supporting academic research on endangered languages. In 2014, the program awarded over $4 million for 27 projects in the form of faculty research grants, one-year fellowships, and doctor dissertation grants. Projects have included recording, archiving, dictionary writing, database building, and more specialized academic studies. Grants can be for any language, but are only open to US citizens and foreign nationals who have been living in the US.
Endangered Language Fund (USA)
Small fund making annual awards, good for one year and $2,500 on average, to communities and researchers around the world engaged in documentation or revitalization. Past projects have funded literacy materials, indigenous language radio programs, and oral history recordings, among many other projects, in over 30 countries.
Large-scale initiative providing funding for academic researchers to document endangered languages around the world. In over a decade, ELDP has awarded over £11 million ($17 million) to 300 different documentation projects. Completed documentation materials are stored and made available at the Endangered Languages Archive.
Firebird Foundation (USA)
Fellowships up to $10,000 awarded to anthropologists, linguists, and other scholars, as well as to local researchers in indigenous societies. Progam focus is on collecting oral literature and traditional ecological knowledge.
Foundation for Endangered Languages (UK)
Non-profit that “supports, enables, and assists the documentation, protection, and promotion of endangered languages” through grants, the bi-annual Ogmios newsletter, and an annual conference. In recent years, 10-20 grants have usually been awarded, on average around $1000 per grant.
Fund for small cultural preservation projects, supporting efforts that have ranged “from local language initiatives to preserving community artifacts and teaching traditional farming techniques.” Offered annually, Legacy Fund grants are targeted at community-driven projects which “deliver a positive, tangible, and timely benefit” and usually do not exceed $25,000.