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

As I reported back in October 2007, the European Science Foundation has been working on a project called EuroBABEL(standing for "Better Analyses Based on Endangered Languages") as part of the EUROCORES collaborative research infrastructure. The main goal of the EuroBABEL is:

"to promote empirical research on underdescribed endangered languages, both spoken and signed, that aims at changing and refining our ideas about linguistic structure in general and about language in relation to cognition, social and cultural organization and related issues in a trans-/multi-disciplinary perspective"

After a complex selection process that involved review by an international expert panel and then negotiations with national funding agencies, ESF has just announced the successful EuroBABEL projects:

Alor-Pantar languages: origins and theoretical impact
(funded by AHRC, NSF, NWO)
Project Leader: Dr. Marian Klamer, Leiden University, Netherlands
Principal Investigators:

  • Professor Greville Corbett, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Gary Holton, University of Alaska Fairbanks, United States


The Kalahari Basin area: a Sprachbund on the verge of extinction
(funded by DFG, ESRC, FIST, NWO)
Project Leader: Professor Tom Güldemann, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, Germany
Principal Investigators:

  • Professor William McGregor, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Professor Maarten Mous, University of Leiden, Netherlands
  • Dr. Brigitte Pakendorf, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
  • Professor Alan Barnard, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Associated Partner:

  • Professor Hirosi Nakagawa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan


Ob-Ugric languages: conceptual structures, lexicon, constructions, categories - An innovative approach to creating descriptive resources for Khanty and Mansi
(funded by AKA, DFG, FWF, OTKA)
Project Leader: Professor Elena Skribnik, Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität, Germany
Principal Investigators:

  • Professor Marianne Bakró-Nagy, University of Szeged, Hungary
  • Dr. Anna Widmer, Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität, Germany
  • Professor Johanna Laakso, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Professor Ulla-Maija Kulonen, University of Helsinki, Finland


Associated Partners:

  • Dr. Klavdiya Afanasjeva, Institute of further training for teachers, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russian Federation
  • Dr. Natalya Koshkaryova, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russian Federation
  • Dr. Valentina Solovar, Yugra State University of Khanty-Mansiisk, Russian Federation
  • Professor Nadezhda Lukina, Pedagogical University of Tomsk, Russian Federation


Referential Hierarchies in Morphosyntax: description, typology, diachrony
(funded by AHRC, DFG, NSF, SNSF)
Project Leader: Dr. Katharina Haude, Universität zu Köln, Germany
Principal Investigators:

  • Professor Spike Gildea, University of Oregon, United States
  • Professor Anna Siewierska, Lancaster University, United Kingdom
  • Professor Balthasar Bickel, University of Leipzig, Germany
  • Dr. Fernando Zúñiga, University of Zurich, Switzerland


Endangered sign languages in village communities
(funded by AHRC, DFG, NSF, NWO)
Project Leader: Professor Ulrike Zeshan, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
Principal Investigators:

  • Dr. Angela Nonaka, University of Texas at Austin, United States
  • Professor Maarten Mous, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Professor Marie Carla Adone, Universität zu Köln, Germany


Associated Partner:

  • Dr. Irit Meir, University of Haifa, Israel

This is an impressive array of researchers, countries, languages and topics that are included in the EuroBABEL initiative. I am particularly pleased that documentation and analysis of signed languages has been funded.

There will be a EuroBABEL launch conference in Berlin 11-13 September at which project teams will meet to discuss with each other their plans for research, networking, dissemination and training activities. The SOAS Endangered Languages Project has been invited to attend the launch conference, along with representatives of the NSF-NEH-Smithsonian Documenting Endangered Languages initiative.

Congratulations to all the project teams!

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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.
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