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SciTech Language Researchers Chart Vanishing Voices (video)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Language researchers chart vanishing voices - video

In a video produced by Cambridge University, anthropologist Mark Turin discusses his work helping speakers of Thangmi, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in eastern Nepal. He aims to document disappearing languages, most of which haven't been written down before, as part of the World Oral Literature Project


For those who may want to use data stored by the project, or want to participate in this exciting research to rescue understanding the world views locked within dying languages

On to the World Oral Languages Project

Endangered Languages Database: Introduction to Resource and Terms of Use

Please read the following information carefully before searching the database. Researchers at the World Oral Literature Project (WOLP) have compiled a database of language endangerment levels with references to collections and recordings of oral literature that exist in archives around the world. Data on language endangerment are drawn from the online Ethnologue, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger and from the work of conservation biologist Professor William Sutherland in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. Only languages classified as endangered by one or more of these datasets have been included in our database. Population statistics are primarily taken from the Ethnologue and three-letter ISO codes are provided where possible to facilitate search requests. Hot links to the Linguist List Map and to the Open Language Archives Community (OLAC) are included for each language as these excellent online resources are frequently updated and contain valuable information and references.

The World Oral Literature Project does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the materials that our researchers have compiled from the sources named above, or for the precision of the endangerment and population levels. We have simply aggregated them in order to facilitate comparison. The principal sources of data are:

1. UNESCO ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’ Online, 2010
UNESCO’s flagship activity in safeguarding endangered languages is the ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’. This free, online and interactive Atlas aims to provide speaker communities, policy-makers and the general public with state-of-the-art knowledge, continually updated by a growing network of experts and community members.

2. Ethnologue Online, 2010
The Ethnologue is an encyclopaedic reference work cataloguing all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages. The electronic version of ‘Ethnologue: Languages of the World’ presents the data used to prepare the sixteenth edition of the printed volume. The web version of this invaluable resource displays the primary table of contents for the Ethnologue organized by geographical areas and countries.

3. Professor William Sutherland’s Red List
Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology at Cambridge University, William Sutherland, together with researcher Heidi Eager, has applied a set of internationally agreed criteria for classifying species extinction risk to languages. Their published research has shown that languages are more threatened than birds or mammals.

The World Oral Literature Project would like to thank the compilers of the above datasets for generously releasing their materials to the public. We would also like to thank Eugenio Tacchini for his free release of the DaDaBik software, which we have used as our back-end database. This pilot database was made possible by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy with additional funding from the Charles E. Chadwyck-Healey Charitable Trust.

For more general terms and conditions relating to the World Oral Literature Project, please refer to our Terms and Privacy pages.



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Related Projects and Initiatives.

This page provides a short list of websites and projects relevant to oral literature or which function as gateways to further resources, often making use of digital technologies to disseminate content in innovative ways. We are always eager to hear of new resources in these areas and will consider adding them to the list. Please contact us with suggestions.

University of Cambridge Projects

Professor William Sutherland at the Conservation Science Group in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, directing a research project on extinction risk and global distribution of languages and species.

Oral Literature Projects

The Sabah Oral Literature Project was established by Dr G.N. Appell and Laura W. R. Appell in 1986 to collect, preserve, and translate the oral literature of the various peoples of northern Sabah. The oral literature of the peoples of Sabah contains important knowledge on the environment and its uses, elucidates the nature of the indigenous perceptions of their environment and offers an insight into the human condition during those times in human history when small communities existed on subsistence agriculture and came into conflict with other such societies.
Argus: Oral Improvisation in the World is a website about oraliy and song.
The Cahiers de littérature orale (Oral literature journals), published by the Centre de Recherche sur l’Oralité (Research Centre on Orality), now CERLOM, is one of the rare publications in the French language exclusively dedicated to orally transmitted texts. Each issue (about 220 pages, two issues or one double a year) is articulated around a topic related to the different facets of orality. It collects discussions, articles, reports and various information.
CELIAC is the Centro Editorial de Literatura Indígena, Asociación Civil, or the Center for Native Language Publishing, in Oaxaca, Mexico and is dedicated to the vitalization if indigenous languages of the Americas.
The Verba Africana series aims at producing DVDs for video documentation, research and e-learning of African languages and oral literatures. They have hosted Ewe Stories and Storytellers from Ghana and Zanzibar: Taarab and Ngoma Performances online, hosted by Leiden University. Verba Africana was established by Dr Daniela Merolla and is the publication series of the international project "African oral literatures, new media, and technologies" (Leiden University, Hamburg University, INALCO-Paris, University of Naples 'L'Orientale', SOAS-London and NWO - the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research).
The Institute for Studies of Traditional Literature at the New University of Lisbon is supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. It aims to recognising traditional / oral / popular literature as a central discipline of social and human sciences and as an intrinsic part of nonmaterial and universal human heritage.
The Uysal - Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative (U-W ATON) is a repository situated at the Texas Tech University Libraries in Lubbock Texas. The work towards an archive began in 1961.
Chanted tales from Highland New Guinea is a comparative study of oral performance traditions and their role in contemporary land politics based at the Australian National University.
International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA) was established in 1991 as an association of scholars from all over the world who are interested in exploring the rich oral traditions of Africa and the African Diaspora from as many disciplinary perspectives as possible.
The Society of Korean Oral Literature is an academic society researching Korean tales, folk songs, shamanic songs, p'ansori, folk drama, proverbs and riddles.
The Adibasi Sanskruti Gabesana Parishad (ASGP) is a non-government, non-profit research organization to facilitate and promote indigenous tribal culture in Orissa, India.
The Tun Jugah Foundation is charitable organisation with a number of objectives, including the collection, recording, transcription and translation of all forms of Iban folklore for study by contemporary scholars and future generations of Iban.
Founded in 1986, the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition at the University of Missouri has a national and international focus for interdisciplinary research and scholarship on the world’s oral traditions. Oral Tradition is a free, open-access electronic version of the centre's journal; while the major purpose of the Pathways Project is to illustrate and explain the fundamental similarities and correspondences between humankind’s oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the internet.
The People's Poetry Gathering is an international festival in downtown Manhattan uniting folk, ethnic, literary and urban poets.
The Tribal Cultural Heritage of India Foundation was established in in 2008 with the aim of contributing to the documentation of India’s tribal cultural heritage, especially aspects of oral traditions, traditional knowledge and material culture that may be valuable for the cultural identity of tribal people.
The Melanesian Way (Inc. Papua New Guinea) is an initiative to revive, promote, protect and preserve traditional Melanesian cultures and indigenous practices and to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive is a browser-based digital archive created by the Warumungu community in Tennant Creek, N.T. Australia. The archive contains photos, digital video clips, audio files, and digital reproductions of cultural artifacts and documents.
The National Folklore Support Centre (NFSC), Chennai, is an unconventional, free-thinking organisation that works with the intangible heritage of India in innovative ways. NFSC is dedicated to the promotion of Indian folklore research, education, training, networking and publication.
Oral Traditions, a website devoted to the spoken word of the UK.
Songs of Memory is an international conference to make the Philippine Epics and Ballads Archive of the Ateneo de Manila University accessible to all.
Professor Harold Scheub's Storyteller is a rich, multimedia presentation on storytellers in Africa.
Listen to the D.K. Wilgus collection of ballads and folksongs, part of which is now online.
Ukrainian Folklore Sound Recordings is a website of 170 hours of audio recordings, part of a larger project on Ukrainian Traditional Folklore which seeks to present the folklore and ethnography of Ukraine.
A website devoted to the Inuit Orality Conference with downloadable papers, proceedings and summaries.
Estudos de Literatura Oral (ELO) is a yearly journal published by the CEAO and devoted to the study of traditional / popular literature.
The Galo Welfare Society is working for the upliftment of the Galo Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and has a website with cultural information about the community.
The Western Australia Folklore Archive records, preserves and gives the public access to the rich folk traditions, past and present.

Endangered Languages Projects, Resources and Funding

The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project (HRELP) supports research, training and archiving for endangered languages throughout the world.
Arca dei Suoni is a project aimed at the collection, sharing and preservation of sound documents related to the life and history of the local communities of Sicily. The project will actively involve high schools and cultural associations in a network, in order to get them to record, upload and download audio(visual) files through a dedicated platform so as to foster awareness of the citizens’ direct responsibility in the monitoring and protection of Sicilian cultural heritage.
BOLD:pNG is recording and transcribing indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea, using voice recorders donated by Olympus. The project aims to collect narratives, dialogues and songs for 100 languages, using the technique of "Basic Oral Language Documentation" (BOLD). Materials will be freely available for non-commercial use.
The UNESCO: Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger lists about 2,500 endangered languages (including 230 languages extinct since 1950). For each language, the Atlas provides a name, its degree of endangerment and the country or countries where it is spoken. UNESCO also maintains a page on oral traditions.
Enduring Voices: Documenting the Planet's Endangered Languages, conducted in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, strives to document endangered languages and prevent language extinction by identifying the most crucial areas where languages are endangered, and assist indigenous communities in their efforts to revitalize and maintain them.
In 2000, the Volkswagen Foundation established the DoBeS (Documentation of Endangered Languages) programme in order to document languages that are potentially in danger of becoming extinct within a few years time. The archive is based in Nijmegen i the Netherlands.
The Endangered Languages Fund was founded ten years ago with the goal of supporting endangered language preservation and documentation projects. The main mechanism for supporting such work on endangered languages has been funding grants to individuals, tribes and museums.
The Endangered Language Alliance is a non-profit organization whose mission is to further the documentation, description, maintenance, and revitalization of threatened and endangered languages, and to educate the public about the causes and consequences of language extinction.
Etnolinguistica is a repository of information on native South American languages, being part of a wider project to create and gather online resources on this field, for both academic researchers and the general public.
The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council (the First Peoples' Council) is a provincial Crown Corporation formed by the government of British Columbia in 1990. They have developed online language and culture toolkits for people wanting to develop language revitalization projects and an impressive language map of British Columbia.
The Foundation for Endangered Languages supports, enables and assists the documentation, protection and promotion of endangered languages.
The goal of the German Association for Endangered Languages (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Sprachen – GBS) is to further the use, preservation and documentation of endangered languages and dialects.
Language Documentation and Conservation is a fully refereed, open-access journal sponsored by the National Foreign Language Resource Center and published exclusively in electronic form by the University of Hawai‘i Press.
A set of useful online resources to accompany the book Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide, by Claire Bowern.
Linguamón – House of Languages is a governmental body formed by Barcelona City Council and the Government of Catalonia. Their mission is to familiarise the general public with the world of languages, to raise awareness of the importance of preserving linguistic diversity, to portray that diversity in a positive light and to convey the tremendous potential that languages and their communities of speakers have to offer.
ProIndígenas promotes and performs social interest works related to information and communication in order to reinforce the development of the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico in a manner that enhances respect and inclusion, and to save their traditions, knowledges and cultures.
The Script Encoding Initiative was set up at the Department of Linguistics of the University of California at Berkeley to fund proposals for those scripts currently missing in Unicode (and its ISO counterpart, 10646), the universal character encoding standard. It was officially established in April 2002.
SemArch is the web-site of the archive of audio documents at the Department of Semitic linguistics, University of Heidelberg. Funded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), it aims at the digitalization of audio documents of Semitic languages or dialects and their archiving and publishing in an internet-database.
The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) is a scholarly organization founded in 1981. Membership is open to all those who are interested in the scientific study of the languages of the native peoples of North, Central and South America.
The Teaching Indigenous Languages website is an outgrowth of a series of annual conferences started in 1994 at Northern Arizona University (U.S.A.) focusing on the linguistic, educational, social, and political issues related to the survival of the endangered Indigenous languages of the world. It contains papers from the 1997 through 2003 conferences on indigenous language teaching, revitalizing and preserving and lots of additional information and links.
Tools for Linguistic Anthropology: a Society for Linguistic anthropology resource site.
Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese is a major documentation project directed by Professor Anvita Abbi of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, aiming for a detailed descriptive grammar, a sociolinguistic description, a trilingual dictionary in Great Andamanese, Hindi and English, and an extensive archive of folklore, oral texts, and video recordings of the surviving 36 Great Andamanese speakers residing in the Strait Island.
The Sorosoro programme of the Fondation Chirac intends to contribute to the safeguarding and revitalization of endangered languages.
WikiProverbs is the first online multi-lingual proverb compendium providing a platform to document, describe and research proverbs belonging to different languages and cultures.

Digital Archive and Library Resources

AILLA is a digital archive of recordings and texts in and about the indigenous languages of Latin America. Access to archive resources is free of charge.
The Alaska Native Language Centre strives to be a single point of access for documentary materials relating to Alaska Native languages.
The Archival Platform is a networking, advocacy and research initiative which aims to facilitate dialogue and information sharing between professionals, academics and government employees in the heritage and archive sector.
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies aims to further understanding of Australian Indigenous cultures, past and present through undertaking and publishing research, and providing access to print and audiovisual collections.
The Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie (CREM) is part of the Laboratoire d'Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative (UMR 7186) in Paris. The ethnomusicology archive may be searched here.
Copyright for Librarians is a joint project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL), a consortium of libraries from 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Digital Archive Network for Anthropology and World Heritage (DANA-WH) is a distributed database network, comprised of multiple constituent data sets controlled by separate Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs) running on independent computer systems, housed at different institutions, and connected to the network.
Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) is is a multi-year funding partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that supports projects to develop and advance knowledge concerning endangered human languages.
The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network (DELAMAN) is an international umbrella body for archives and other initiatives with the goal of documenting and archiving endangered languages and cultures worldwide.
The aim of the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) to contribute to the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration worldwide. Based at the British Library, EAP has compiled a series of very helpful guidelines on the preservation of film, images and sound recordings.
The Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR), part of the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project (HRELP), provides a digital archive for the documentations and descriptions of endangered languages. ELAR started accepting deposits in October 2005.
Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage is concerned with the nature of knowledge and rights based on culture: how these are defined and used, who has control and access and how fair and appropriate use and access can be achieved to the benefit of all stakeholders.
JISC Digital Media (formerly known as TASI) is a JISC Advance service, which provides advice, guidance and training to the UK's Further and Higher Education community. The website offers very helpful guidelines on working with still images, moving images and audio.
The Journal of Folklore Research offers concise reviews of recent works (including books, museum exhibits, scholarly websites, DVD and CD-ROM productions, and video and film documentaries) relevant to the discipline of folkloristics, delivered directly and free of charge to individuals through an e-mail subscription list, as well as on-line through their website.
Kaipuleohone is the University of Hawai'i's digital ethnographic archive for audio and video recordings as well as photographs, notes, dictionaries, transcriptions, and other materials related to small and endangered languages.
The Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale (LACITO) archive contains documents of connected, spontaneous speech, mostly in 'rare' or endangered languages, recorded in their cultural context and transcribed in consultation with native speakers.
Memory of the World is UNESCO's programme aiming at preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide.
Open Folklore, being created by the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, is a new scholarly resource that will make a greater number and variety of useful resources, both published and unpublished, available for the field of folklore studies and the communities with which folklore scholars partner.
The Open Language Archives Community (OLAC) is an international partnership of institutions and individuals who are creating a worldwide virtual library of language resources.
The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures in Australia (PARADISEC) offers a facility for digital conservation and access for endangered materials from the Pacific region, defined broadly to include Oceania and East and Southeast Asia.
The practical e-records blog is about software and tools for archivists, written by Chris Prom.
The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible digital library of all documented human languages.

Other Resources

Open Book Publishers is a Social Enterprise (CIC) company founded by a group of scholars concerned about the increasing price and difficulty to publish and access research in the humanities.
Shared and Open Anthropology is a project that examines the creation of anthropological knowledge through the use of communication technologies.
The BBC's Save Our Sounds initiative is hoping to create an audio snapshot of the world. An interactive map allows users to listen to sounds from around the world.
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution promoting the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and around the world. Their online resources include a series of documents relating to Safeguarding Traditional Cultures.
Core of Culture Dance Preservation is a registered non-profit organization committed to safeguarding Intangible World Heritage. The emphasis is on ancient dance and endangered movement traditions in the healing, meditation and martial arts. Core of Culture initiates, supports and documents projects to enhance the appreciation and preservation of these rare forms of movement.
Bob Geldof and producer/director John Maguire have announced their intention to collaborate on the Dictionary of Man, an ambitious project that will record every human society on the planet.
The Global Diversity Foundation promotes the richness of local cultures and their environments around the world.
The International Library of African Music (ILAM) is the largest archive of African music in sub Saharan Africa.
The Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA) documents the untold stories of Lao refugees in the US through audio and video media and create an on-line archive of interviews, videos, and historical documents.
Narrative is a non-profit organisation dedicated to storytelling in the digital age.
The Permanent International Commitee/Comité International Permanent des Linguistes (CIPL) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1928 during the first international congress of linguists to assist in the development of linguistic science.
The Xoms |Omis Project was established for the dual purpose of improving the livelihoods among the Hai||om whilst simultaneously seeking to ensure the preservation and promotion of Etosha’s unique cultural heritage.

Radio 3 provides the World Music archive . The archive provides ten years of Radio 3 on-location recordings from 2000 to the present in our World Music archive, recording the life and musical traditions of countries ranging from Brazil to North Korea and Cuba to Turkmenistan.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the dependency of indigenous and local communities on biological diversity and the unique role of indigenous and local communities in conserving life on Earth.

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