« ✝ Geoffrey Noel O'Grady 1928-2008 | Blog home | Facebook and Endangered Languages - Peter K. Austin »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

Peter K. Austin and David Nathan
Linguistics Department, SOAS
6th January 2009

The Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) was established at SOAS in January 2004, with the first deposits accepted in late 2005. Our initial priority was on preservation but recently the ELAR public catalogue was released and it will soon extend to providing access to materials (where permissions allow). To date, ELAR has received over 50 deposits and stores about 4 terabytes of data. Audio recordings make up about 60% of this (both in terms of the total number of files and the total volume of data).

ELAR was established primarily to preserve and disseminate data collected by grantees from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) and by staff and students from the Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP). Because language documentation is an emerging area that relies a lot on new techniques and technologies, ELAR also provides training, advice and support to ELDP grantees, ELAP staff and students, and others through international training workshops (see, for example, the various organised by ELAR and taught by ELAR and ELAP staff and students and additional experts). ELAR staff also manage the research facilities of the Rausing Room, the Linguistics Resources Room, and the pool of fieldwork equipment available to ELAP staff and students.

ELAR now has four staff, with David Nathan and Ed Garrett being card-carrying linguists and IT professionals, and technicians Tom Castle and Bernard Howard having specialist skills in digital and analogue audio techniques and equipment.

With these resources, skills and experience, ELAR is able to help people who want to archive resources for endangered languages, including individual and retired researchers who may not have alternative sources of equipment or advice. Dietrich Schüller, the former Director of the Austrian Phonogrammarchiv, has warned in a recent paper[.pdf] that the great majority of the world's human cultural heritage is sitting unpreserved and uncatalogued on the shelves of individual researchers. We can help these researchers with preparing materials, including digitising and converting audio, as well as providing advice and training in how to create metadata and cataloguing information.

Over the last few years ELAR has collaborated with a number of individual researchers in preparing their materials for deposit:

  • Dr Shelagh Weir is former curator for Middle Eastern ethnography at the Museum of Mankind (British Museum). Together with Bonnie Stalls (University of Southern California), Shelagh holds unique research tapes on Razihi (a dialect descendant of ancient South Arabian), the language of Jabal Razih, a rugged massif in the north-west highlands of the Republic of Yemen. ELAR provided a cassette digitisation service (for a small fee, as part of a project funded by the British Academy), and gave advice about metadata and cataloguing, in anticipation of receiving the materials for formal deposit
  • Professor Ida Toivonen, Carleton University, Canada, came to London for a week to digitise DAT tapes of Inari Saami spoken in Finland that she collected in the 1990s. We provided Ida with a equipment, trained her in transfer of the audio data to computer files, and worked with her on converting miscellaneous labelling on the tapes to cataloguing metadata for her collection, which is now being deposited at ELAR.
  • Mr Eli Timan, a research associate at ELAP, is a member of the London expatriate Iraqi Jewish community and is documenting his group's unique dialect of Arabic, which is seriously endangered. ELAR assisted Eli with training in several areas including audio recording, metadata creation, and XML
  • Dr Eva Kershaw is a retired scholar living in northern Scotland. During her stay in Brunei in the 1970s she learnt the Dusun (Bisaya) language and recorded fluent speakers, most of who are now deceased. In 2008, Eva spent several weeks working as a guest researcher in the Rausing Room, digitising her large collection of cassette tapes. Subsequently, David Nathan worked with Eva to identify suitable methods for linking her recordings with her transcriptions and notes, and she then went on to turn her transcriptions into a structured database which she then time-aligned using the Transcriber software tool.
  • Dr Roger Kershaw conducted his doctoral research during the 1960's in Malaysia in two Thai-speaking villages in Kelantan. ELAR set up Roger with one of our open-reel recorders, a digital interface and computer, and then Roger spent several days capturing at high resolution the reel-to-reel tapes he had recorded, emerging at the end of the process with high quality digital files on a portable hard disk. Roger plans to use the digitised versions to further his work on the language, as well as to archive the resources at ELAR.

In most of these cases, ELAR staff worked individually with the depositor to establish their needs and priorities, set up equipment, train in its usage, be on hand when problems arose, and provide backup and working copies for the researchers to take away. We also worked intensively with these visitors to analyse their materials and then design data strategies to achieve a balance between the nature of the materials, the researcher's skills, the time that the researcher can feasibly devote to learning new skills to enrich the materials given their other commitments, and their goals for the materials.

ELAR is happy to discuss with endangered languages researchers, organisations, or communities about possibilities for providing advice, services and archiving on an individual or project basis. If you are interested in working with ELAR to deposit your research materials (including digitisation and data preparation), please contact David Nathan [djn AT soas.ac.uk] for further information.

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.

Recently commented on


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text