From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
20th February 2009
Unesco has just published the latest version on its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger edited by Christopher Moseley (the original 1996 and 2001 editions were edited by the late Stephen A. Wurm). The on-line interactive version of the Atlas is now available and the book version is due out soon. There is also a downloadable map in .pdf format (warning, it's 20 Mbytes in size and unless you have access to a very large monitor or printer it is not terribly usable).
The editorial group who assisted Moseley is a veritable who's who of specialists in endangered languages, including 27 experts from 13 named regions, supplemented by 6 specialists who provided "complementary information on specific areas". Having spoken to several of the contributors personally (including one colleague I met in Tokyo last week), it appears that preparation of the database underlying the Atlas was not all harmony and light and resulted in some disagreements among contributors. Not so unusual in endangered languages research, I guess.
I had a little cruise around the interactive presentation, which uses a Google Maps interface and noticed quite a few oddities in regions where I have a little knowledge. Perhaps readers of this blog will notice more. There is a "Contribute your comments" link to the website but it appears to be broken because all it does is display the same page. There doesn't seem to be anywhere one could point out apparent errors to Unesco and the editor, however it is possible to comment on individual listed languages by clicking on their "pin" on the Google Map and going to the "Comments" tab in the information that pops up. The comment then disappears and where it goes is not at all clear.
Here are a few other things I noticed: