Language Endangerment

Today there are about 6,500 languages spoken worldwide and at least half of those will have fallen silent by the end of this century. In many areas of the world, globalisation creates economic, political and social pressures on people who in response give up their traditional ways of life, find new sources of income and move to cities. This causes speakers to cease speaking their traditional languages, and turn to other, typically more dominant languages to foster economic and social mobility for their children.

While throughout human history speakers have shifted to other languages, the speed of this development has increased dramatically over the past century. Each of these languages expresses the unique knowledge, history and worldview of their speaker communities, and each language is a specially evolved variation of the human capacity for language. Many of these disappearing languages have never been described or recorded and so the richness of human linguistic diversity is disappearing without a trace.

The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme responds to this loss by supporting researchers to document endangered languages worldwide.

Our key objectives are
• to support the documentation of as many endangered languages as possible
• to encourage fieldwork on endangered languages
• to create a repository of resources for linguistics, the social sciences, and the language communities themselves
• to make the documentary collections freely available

What we do

We support the documentation and preservation of endangered languages through granting, training and outreach activities. The collections compiled through our funding are freely accessible at the Endangered Languages Archive SOAS University of London.


About us

The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme was founded in 2002 with a donation from the Arcadia fund to SOAS University of London and has funded over 450 language documentation projects globally so far.


Our Grants

We provide grants world wide for the documentation of endangered languages. Individuals regardless of nationality or host institution can apply to our programme. We offer four different grant types and run one granting cycle per year opening 15th October each year.



Our focus is the linguistic documentation of endangered languages and making the digital collections freely available online. In addition we support capacity building through training in London and in country.





5-6 December 2019

International Conference on Language Technologies for All (LT4All) - UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

Over 2 days, LT4All will explore the relationship between technologies and languages from a scientific, technical, cultural, linguistic, economical and political perspective. The conference is also within the framework of UNESCO's International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 and we're pleased to share that our Director Mandana Seyfeddinpur will represent ELDP as part of the Programme Committee.

The expected audience of LT4All includes representatives of UNESCO, international bodies, national and regional governments and administrations, academia, language technology researchers, linguists, industrials, indigenous communities and language policy makers from all over the world. The attendance at the conference is on invitation and the audience will be targeted to a maximum of 400 people.

25 June 2019

Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Director of ELDP, will be speaking at the Digital Modern Languages seminar series at King's College London on 25 June 2019.

Mandana's talk, titled "Two Sides of the Same Coin: Why the Digital is Blessing and Curse for Endangered Languages" will explore digital technology and endangered languages.

Find more information and register in advance via this link.

21 May 2019 - Ghanaian scholars funded by AFSOAS for ELDP language documentation training

Two Ghanaian scholars have been supported by American Friends of SOAS (AFSOAS) to attend ELDP language documentation training at SOAS later this year.

Kenneth Bodua-Mango and Ida Sodeke Assem are graduate students who intend to pursue PhDs focusing on the documentation of Animere, a highly endangered Ghana-Togo Mountain language (Kwa; Niger-Congo). It is spoken in the towns of Kecheibi and Kunda in the Nkwanta South district of Ghana’s Oti region. It is estimated to have fewer than 30 speakers.

Kenneth Bodua-Mango is currently a part-time Tutor in Language and Linguistics at the Accra College of Education, Legon.

He graduated from the University of Ghana in 2009 with a BA degree in Linguistics. In 2010, he won a scholarship from the Norwegian Government to pursue an MPhil programme in Linguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and graduated in 2012. As part of the programme, he wrote a corpus-based thesis on Coordinators in Safaliba; a Gur (Mabia) language spoken in the Savanah Region of Ghana. From 2015 to 2018, he worked as an Assistant lecturer at the Department of Gur-Gonja Education, University of Education Winneba, teaching General Linguistics and Gonja.

Ida Sodeke Assem holds an MPhil in Applied Linguistics from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana and a BA (Akan) from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana.

She conducted her undergraduate and masters research on the pragmatics of the Akan language. Ida currently works as a part-time field researcher for Associates for Change, an NGO in Accra, and has served on two of their major fieldworks in 2017 and 2019. She is also an Assistant Lecturer in Communication Studies at the University of Professional Studies, Accra.

AFSOAS is a community group, founded by SOAS alumni based in the US, and aims to create a link between SOAS and its American alumni by developing a professional, academic, career and social network of 3,500+ alumni and friends in the US.

Greg Buie, President of AFSOAS, said, “Since 2012, American Friends of SOAS has provided more than £1 million in support to the university, thanks to the generosity of American alumni and friends. Recognizing that 2019 is the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, we wanted to support the amazing work of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme in particular by providing scholarships for two individuals from Ghana to attend an intensive language documentation training program in Fall 2019. These two bright young people will help to document endangered cultural practices and everyday language use among the Animere. We are thrilled to be able to support the noble work of these two young scholars and of the ELDP in general and are grateful to all who made this opportunity possible!”

The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) trains grantees in modern language documentation theory, lexicography and dictionary making, everyday language use, as well as software training for linguistic analysis. ELDP also trains grantees in data management and the specific tools that they will need for archiving their materials with the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR).

ELDP has so far funded over 400 projects around the world and have trained over 200 grantees through annual training sessions and in-country summer schools.

12 May 2019

2 x Postdoctoral positions available: language documentation, language archiving, linked methods, language typology.

Deadline: 12 May 2019

Pending on final approval by the Ministery of Education and Research (BMFB), the Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) in Berlin invites applications for two three year postdoc position in the areas of language documentation, language typology, language archiving and linked methods, for a project on the development of criteria and standards for the curation of annotated audiovisual language data.

These positions are in collaboration with ELDP and partners at the Universität Hamburg, the Universität zu Köln, the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (Mannheim).

More information on the positions can be found on Linguist List:

1) Postdoc position - 100%

2) Postdoc position - 50%

July 4-5, 2019

LAPI 2019 - Endangered Languages and Language Varieties in the Iberian Peninsula. The Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS), with SWLI and the project FRONTESPO, invites scholars working on minority and endangered languages in the Iberian Peninsula to join us at the 2nd International Symposium on Endangered languages and language varieties in the Iberian Peninsula. Registration is open until June 10.

Call for abstracts: The deadline for abstract submission is March 31, 2019.