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From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
12 May 2009

The financial difficulties currently facing the world's economies are having an impact on funding and support for research on endangered languages in various ways. (I heard the current situation referred to in Australia last month as The GFC ("Global Financial Crisis"), an acronym that I initially confused with The BFG (as a Roald Dahl fan) and that doesn't seem to have much purchase outside Australia -- even Wikipedia is taking the G out of GFC.)

Here are some of the signs:

  • the Sorosoro Programme of Fondation Chirac has postponed its planned annual events at the Musée du Quai Branly from early June to the end of 2009, or possibly even later (videos of last June's events are here)
  • the planned World Language Centre initiative of the Vigdis Finnboggadottir Institute in Iceland is being scaled back and no new international activities are now planned until early 2010
  • the laying of the foundation stone for LINGUAMÓN - Casa de les Llengës that had been scheduled for last year will now take place in November this year with the building planned to be open in 2011 (Linguamón continues to be active and an electronic newsletter is now available in Catalan, Spanish and English)
  • the DoBeS programme of the Volkswagen Stiftung will not have a funding application round in 2009 -- the next application deadline will be in September 2010 with funds available from 2011

Things look a bit gloomy for the next year or so, however there is some good news. The grants from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme that is administered by SOAS have not been affected as the funding base was established by a commitment from Arcadia (formerly the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund) back in 2002. In fact, under new arrangements recently negotiated with Arcadia, ELDP's budget end date has now been extended until 2016, some four years later than originally anticipated. There are two grant cycles this year: the second cycle of grant applications opens on Friday 15 May, with a closing date of 3rd August (see here for details).


On the other hand, there seems to be a correlation between the disappearance of small languages and economic expansion.

Surely on a broader scale, the finanical crisis could mean good news for the smaller languages?

On the other hand, efforts to combat the (G)FC through economic stimulus may end up having a positive effect on the availability of funding from public sources. The US National Science Foundation plans to give out an additional US$2 billion in grants before the end of this year. (Not all for endangered language work, of course.) See http://www.nsf.gov/recovery, and http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2006/nsf06577/nsf06577.htm


Thanks for the information about NSF -- I would be interested to learn how much of the "stimulus" goes to DEL. Perhaps Susan Penfield or Joan Maling can enlighten us?

My understanding of the NSF stimulus money is that it is going primarily towards a) proposals which were recommended for funding in the last round but missed the cutoff because of purely budget issues, and b) for capital equipment grants. There was an across-the-board increase in R&D funding according to AAAS.

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