Federal Agencies Take Action to Digitally Document Nearly 50 Endangered Languages

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced the award of 10 fellowships and 24 institutional grants totaling $3.9 million in the agencies' ongoing Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) program.

This is the seventh round of their campaign to preserve records of languages threatened with extinction. Experts estimate that more than half of the approximately 7,000 currently used human languages are bound for oblivion in this century, and the window of opportunity for high-quality language field documentation, they say, narrows with each passing year.

These new DEL awards will support digital documentation work on almost 50 endangered languages, enhance the computational infrastructure of the field and provide training for the next generation of researchers.

For example, no more than a handful of speakers, all elderly, remain of Karuk and Yurok, two indigenous languages of northern California. The existing scholarly literature includes little information about their discourse and word order patterns.

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