Endangered Languages Database: Introduction to Resource and Terms of Use

Please read the following information carefully before searching the database. Researchers at the World Oral Literature Project have compiled a database of language endangerment levels with references to collections and recordings of oral literature that exist in archives around the world. Data on language endangerment are drawn from the online Ethnologue, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger and from the work of conservation biologist Professor William Sutherland in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. Only languages classified as endangered by one or more of these datasets have been included in our database. Population statistics are primarily taken from the Ethnologue and three-letter ISO codes are provided where possible to facilitate search requests. Hot links to the Linguist List Map and to the Open Language Archives Community (OLAC) are included for each language as these excellent online resources are frequently updated and contain valuable information and references.

The World Oral Literature Project does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the materials that our researchers have compiled from the sources named above, or for the precision of the endangerment and population levels. We have simply aggregated them in order to facilitate comparison. The principal sources of data are:

1. UNESCO ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’ Online, 2010
UNESCO’s flagship activity in safeguarding endangered languages is the ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’. This free, online and interactive Atlas aims to provide speaker communities, policy-makers and the general public with state-of-the-art knowledge, continually updated by a growing network of experts and community members.

2. Ethnologue Online, 2010
The Ethnologue is an encyclopaedic reference work cataloguing all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages. The electronic version of ‘Ethnologue: Languages of the World’ presents the data used to prepare the sixteenth edition of the printed volume. The web version of this invaluable resource displays the primary table of contents for the Ethnologue organized by geographical areas and countries.

3. Professor William Sutherland’s Red List
Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology at Cambridge University, William Sutherland, together with researcher Heidi Eager, has applied a set of internationally agreed criteria for classifying species extinction risk to languages. Their published research has shown that languages are more threatened than birds or mammals.

The World Oral Literature Project would like to thank the compilers of the above datasets for generously releasing their materials to the public. We would also like to thank Eugenio Tacchini for his free release of the DaDaBik software, which we have used as our back-end database. This pilot database was made possible by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy with additional funding from the Charles E. Chadwyck-Healey Charitable Trust. For more general terms and conditions relating to the World Oral Literature Project, please refer to our Terms and Privacy pages.


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