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.


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 July 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.





WeSearch Extra: Language in a box. How languages enter the archive - 21 Frebruary 2024

Mandana Seyfeddinipur will participate in a panel discussion offering insights into the processes involved in documenting and safeguarding languages. Find more information here.

MIGRA-UP: Dekoloniale Perspektiven auf Mehrsprachigkeit: Erst- und Familiensprachen in Berlin - 20 Frebruary 2024

Mandana Seyfeddinipur, ELAR director, will lead a discussion and workshop focusing on the preservation of endangered languages and the vital role of the first language in shaping identity. Find more information here.

Discussion: Resources for Communities, Scholars and the Public

On November 10th, Mandana Seyfeddinipur and Kelsey Neely will be participating in the round table discussion about Indigenous Languages of Latin America in Berlin organised by the institute of Latin American studies at the Free University of Berlin.

Grant round closes - 31 October 2023

The ELDP grant round is now closed. Results will be announced by April 15, 2024. We appreciate the commitment and effort of all applicants.

Talk: Why we need to act now: Documentation of endangered languages and knowledges

On September 26th, ELAR director Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur will give a talk on the urgency of language documentation and preservation for a webinar hosted by the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Malaya.