LINGUIST List 13.2026

Sat Aug 3 2002

FYI: Funding for Endangered Langs Documentation

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  • info, Endangered Languages Project

    Message 1: Endangered Languages Project

    Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 12:08:18 +0100
    From: info <>
    Subject: Endangered Languages Project

    Press Release

    To help explore and record linguistic diversity across the globe, a British foundation has provided �20,000,000 over ten years to create an international scholarly program to study endangered languages.

    The scale of the funding is commensurate with the urgent--and enormous--threat to the world's linguistic diversity. Many of the languages that will be studied are linguistic isolates. All are very nearly extinct. They have never been adequately analysed or recorded, and they are typically spoken only by a few elderly people. These languages--and their speakers--deserve to be remembered, and to take their place in history. At the same time, this worldwide project to preserve crucial knowledge about the world's linguistic heritage will vitally illuminate the history of how humanity settled the earth.

    The Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund aims to support research in the humanities and the social sciences. This grant, together with other family benefactions amounting to many millions of pounds, is intended by the Hans Rausing family to help British universities maintain the highest standards of academic scholarship.

    When deciding to secure the participation of SOAS in this program--a process that took many months of consultation--the Fund's trustees expressed the greatest confidence in the achievements and potential of the School, and in enthusiasm and dedication of its scholars and leaders. The trustees were impressed by the fit between their own profound concern at the threat to knowledge of linguistic and cultural diversity globally, and SOAS's long-standing and distinguished study of small languages in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Fund's trustees also share with SOAS a commitment to the highest ethical standards when co-operating with small language communities-- people who are often marginalized and dispossessed.

    Part of the grant will underwrite an academic programme within SOAS, utilising SOAS's staff and facilities. It will train field-workers and deepen knowledge of endangered languages through specially designed courses in field linguistics generally and endangered languages in particular as well as by co-ordinating scholarly activity, publicity and consultation in the field. But the bulk of the fund will be administered by SOAS to provide grants to scholars throughout the world to document and analyse endangered languages.

    Professor Colin Bundy, Director and Principal of SOAS, voiced unqualified delight at the news of the award. "SOAS was founded in 1916 as a specialist institution for the study of languages in Asia, and later in Africa. We created the first British linguistics department (in 1932) and our Library was identified in 1961 as a national resource for the study of Africa and Asia. Our history, mission and ethos equip us for this visionary project." He stressed that in addition to the School's regionally defined departments concentrating on language and culture its range of disciplinary departments - such as anthropology, history, linguistics - offered a rich opportunity for becoming a world leader in the documentation and study of endangered languages.

    SOAS and the Fund together will underwrite the infrastructure to manage this grants programs. This means that other families, foundations and companies that would like to donate to this cause, will have the security of knowing that 100% of their money goes directly to the recording and study of nearly extinct languages. The costs of research and documentation to ensure that full knowledge of a language and its use are preserved will vary, but the average is about �150,000.

    For information on making a donation, as well as all general enquiries, please conatact Mary O'Shea at SOAS on 07898 4075 or