The Endangered Languages Project

A project to support language preservation and documentation around the world

Endangered Languages Project FAQ

About Endangered Languages

Multiple factors influence the vitality of a language. A language starts to become endangered when intergenerational transmission begins to decrease (i.e. the language ceases to be passed on to children as a first language). As older generations of speakers pass away, fewer and fewer people are left who speak the language.

About Using EndangeredLanguages.com

On the homepage, http://www.endangeredlanguages.com, click on "Create your account" in gray letters in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Follow the instructions from there.

For each language on this site there is a Resources tab where you can share materials related to that language. This can include a wide range of things, such as scripts for casual conversations, educational videos, culturally relevant videos, audio recordings, music, spoken word lists or academic documents. There is also a Resources tab where you can share such things as grammars, dictionaries, or articles written about the language.

The full content guidelines can be seen here. You should not upload material that is owned by others without their permission. Only material that is appropriate to share openly online should be shared through this project.

Not at all. You retain control over all material you upload, and you can edit or remove the material at any time. You can also download it back to your computer, for example, if you ever lose your own copy of it.

Yes, material uploaded to this project will be stored using products with strong infrastructure in place, such as YouTube or Google Docs. It will be safely stored online for you to access, edit or download anytime for the foreseeable future.

This site is intended for material that can be shared openly. Much can be gained by sharing languages openly online. If you want a private workspace to which you can invite project or community members, we recommend you check out Google Sites, or various archives whose protocols allow them to limit access.

Anything uploaded by users can be flagged for removal by selecting the "Flag As Inappropriate" option to the right of the language resource. If this is done, the material is taken down.

Anyone can upload material or add comments. All that is needed is a Gmail address or email address associated with a Google Account to login to the site. You can start a Google Account here.

No.

You can visit any of the items you shared and remove them individually at any time. You can also remove all of your submitted material at once by deleting your profile through logging into the site, clicking on your user name in the top right corner, and then selecting the Delete Profile option.

If you have knowledge about a specific language, you can help document it by sharing content such as word and phrase lists, grammar information, documents, links, videos and audio files. You can also suggest updates to the statistics about that language. To learn more about how to document a language, click here.

Teaching and learning endangered languages is a crucial part of the revitalization process. ELP provides a space for users to browse and contribute resources (videos, documents, sound recordings, etc.) related to language learning and teaching, and to discuss their challenges and successes in language education. To see what others have contributed, or to upload your own materials to help others, visit the Language Education Resources area.

If you are interested in learning more about a specific language, you may also want to explore all the Resources available on that language, such as word lists or basic audio phrasebooks. To see what Resources are available for a language, click the "Resources" tab on that language's page. For example, if you wanted to begin learning Irish Gaelic, you might enjoy listening to some of the audio or video recordings available on the Irish Gaelic Resources page.

For discussion and news about teaching endangered languages, or if you have specific questions about how best to undertake education in your language, we also recommend the Resource Network for Linguistic Discovery.

About The Alliance For Linguistic Diversity

The Alliance is a global coalition of organizations working to strengthen and preserve endangered languages. Technology and collaboration can make a tremendous difference in this effort.

We hope your organization will join this important effort by Creating an Account and selecting the option to create a profile on behalf of an organization. This will add your organization to the list of Alliance members and allow users to affiliate their profile with your group. Please make sure to use a Gmail or Google Account affiliated with your organization, not just your personal email address.

Absolutely! Please tell us more about your plans by completing this form so that we can try to support your efforts.

About The Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat)

The language information included on the site is provided by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat) project, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. For more information about ELCat, please see About the Catalogue of Endangered Languages.

It is an unfortunate fact that for many of the world's endangered languages, very little information is available to researchers outside the speaker community. The Catalogue of Endangered Languages team has undertaken an intensive four-year search for the best available information on each language; however, in some cases, further information simply does not exist. If you have language information which is missing from the Catalogue, please contact us!

New information will be sought and existing information corrected to complete the fields of information on each language. Documentation and revitalization projects, organizations, and individuals in positions to know or be able to find out will be contacted for current information. Grammars, lexicons, and other sources on the languages will be consulted and evaluated, and on this basis the index of the documentation for the language will be calculated. At the end of its funded period, ELCat will still be maintained and updated by language researchers on a volunteer basis.

For information from the Catalogue of Endangered Languages, cite as:

Catalogue of Endangered Languages. 2017. University of Hawaii at Manoa. http://www.endangeredlanguages.com

For general information from a language entry (e.g. language names, classification, or vitality status), cite:

"LANGUAGE NAME." Catalogue of Endangered Languages. 2017. University of Hawaii at Manoa. DATE OF ACCESS. < FULL URL OF SPECIFIC LANGUAGE PAGE >

For example:

"Xipaya." Catalogue of Endangered Languages. 2017. University of Hawaii at Manoa. Jun. 24, 2017. http://www.endangeredlanguages.com/lang/1001

Almost all information in the Catalogue of Endangered Languages includes a citation of the original source which provided this data (e.g. journal article, book, personal communication, etc.). You can find citation information at the top of the "Language Information by Source" box on each language page; if you wish to reproduce data such as speaker numbers, you may cite the original source provided there.

Users are highly encouraged to suggest improvements to the Catalogue by clicking the "Suggest a Change" tab at the top of each language page, or by emailing us. All suggested changes will be verified for accuracy before changes to the Catalogue can be made.

See the Endangered Languages Catalogue data template for the kind of data we collect for each language, though not every data field has information in it. However, in order to be included on the site, submitted information must have an accurate bibliographic source.

Criteria for inclusion in the Catalogue of Endangered Languages were established in the international workshop "Collaborative Research: Endangered Languages Information and Infrastructure Project" supported by the National Science Foundation. They include vitality information on the languages such as the absolute number of speakers, whether the language is being passed on to children, whether speaker numbers are in decline, whether domains of usage are receding, the proportion of speakers relative to the overall ethnic population, etc. Languages deemed endangered on these criteria are included.

To suggest a new language for the Catalogue, please fill out the language suggestion form.

If a language you suggested was not added to the site, it is because it was reviewed by foremost authorities on languages in that region of the world and it did not meet the project’s criteria for inclusion. This could involve several factors: the language that you suggested is already included under a different principal name, it is only a variety (dialect) of a larger language, or it is not endangered by the criteria used here. When a language is not sufficiently at risk to qualify for inclusion in this Catalogue, that is something to be celebrated, because it means that the language is relatively vital and at present not endangered.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. "Languages" and "dialects" are defined in a variety of different ways. The most common linguistic criterion for distinguishing a language from a dialect is Mutual intelligibility. If people from different regions speak somewhat differently but understand each other well, then they speak dialects of the same language. Nevertheless, this linguistic criterion is not the only one used to distinguish languages from dialects. Sometimes the decision rests on political and social factors. As Max Weinreich reported to have said, "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy," meaning the decision to call consider some entities as separate languages depends on non-linguistic factors. For example, speakers of Swedish and Norwegian understand each other reasonably well, but for political reasons they are considered separate languages. For the purposes of the Catalogue of Endangered Languages, funded by the National Science Foundation, we give priority to linguistic criteria, primarily mutual intelligibility, though the social and political factors are also important.
In some instances entities can be on the border between being quite different dialects of a single language and being quite closely related languages, and in these instances it can be difficult to determine the extent of mutual intelligibility, which may be partial, neither fully absent nor fully present. In such cases, opinions about whether things are merely dialects of one language or belong to different languages can vary. In such difficult cases, the Catalogue includes the entities in question and records the range of opinion involved.

Names of endangered dialects, where well-known, appear with the entry for the language to which the dialect in question belongs. For example, the Plains and Hills dialects of the Gta’ language are both represented on the page for the Gta’ language.
In cases where it is not clear whether varieties constitute separate languages or are dialects of a single language, we have given the varieties their own entry in the Catalogue, but with indication of the range of differing opinion about the status.

Most languages reported to have recently lost their last speakers probably are truly no longer spoken; nevertheless, it is possible that some unknown speakers may yet turn up, as has happened in some cases. For that reason we give these languages the benefit of the doubt. The languages believed to have lost their last speaker in the last 50 years are all included in the Catalogue of Endangered Languages, together with whatever is reported in sources about their status. See table 1 of the document Silent Tongues for a list of these languages.

Some languages do not show up (yet) on the map because the research team has not yet found reliable information on their location. If you have reliable information on where a particular language is spoken, we invite you to share that knowledge by clicking the "Add information" button at the bottom of the language page.

Also, some languages are not readily visible on the map when first opened, but become visible when you zoom in on the map (clicking on the plus sign [+] in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

It is necessary to include all names by which a language is or has been known, but at the same time it is important to indicate any names that are considered objectionable. This is needed because:

  • Sometimes a user may not know that a name by which the language has been known is offensive or may not know any other name for that language by which to look it up. Such terms need to be listed, but also identified as objectionable, so languages can be searched for effectively. At the same time, their inclusion informs users about names considered offensive.
  • Some terms may be considered objectionable only by some speakers, but not by all, or only by outsiders but not by members of communities whose languages are involved.
  • In some cases, earlier writings about a language may may use a name that was not then derogatory and only later became considered offensive.

Suggested additions or changes to information in the Catalogue must be verified; this is done by an international research team in order to ensure accuracy and academic integrity. It can take anywhere from the next day up to several weeks after submission to process these suggestion. Rest assured, however, that even in cases of delay, we are eager to have these suggestions and yours is being processed.

Suggested additions to or changes in the Catalogue may not be accepted for a number of reasons. Common reasons include:

  • Relevance: Some information may be interesting and valuable, but does not belong to the kinds of information presented in the Catalogue. The Catalogue focuses on information such as the number of speakers, locations, and vitality information. Other kinds of information should be shared in the Knowledge Sharing forums, or on a language’s Google Group, and should not be submitted to the "add information" link at the bottom of each language page.
  • Appropriateness: Does this suggested change contain anything disrespectful of the speakers or their culture or considered objectionable by members of the group whose language is involved? Suggested changes of this sort are not made in the Catalogue.
  • Reliability: What is the source of this information? The Catalogue can accept only suggestions which are clearly from reliable sources. The more information you give about where the information comes from, the more likely it is that the suggestion will be adopted.
  • Insufficient information: In some instances, we are unable to make changes that are recommended because insufficient information is provided. If you can, please supply sufficient information so that the research teams can verify for the suggested change.

If you have further questions as to why your suggestion was not implemented, please feel free to contact us.