International conference in Wilamowice, Poland, June 11-13

ImageWe would like to help our colleagues at Revitalizing Endangered Languages spread the word out about their upcoming conference. The event takes place in Wilamowice, Poland, from June 11th to 13th, 2014. The focus of the conference is the following languages: Nahuatl, spoken in Mexico; and Lemko and Wymysorys, spoken in Poland.

Conference Title:



The conference seeks to explore new approaches to language revitalization, such as the development of research models based on close collaboration between scholars and the native speakers of endangered languages as well as their communities. We plan to bring together and foster vital networking among field researchers in language revitalization and documentation, language activists and members of speech communities. We believe that the revitalization of a language cannot be accomplished unless its speakers’ voices are heard within the context of a global cultural heritage. Therefore attempts should be made to overcome the isolation of groups that struggle to preserve their languages. We are also convinced that cross-cultural contact and multilingualism, as well as the preservation and development of minority languages are sources of profound and long-lasting social benefits and innovations. The unique perspective that is coded within each language provides a distinct and unique set of critical and creative tools that are available to both native and non-native speakers.

The conference will provide a space for native speakers, community members and scholars to exchange and discuss common experiences as well as to present and discuss contributions to scientific knowledge about studied languages. It will be carried out within the framework of the project “Endangered languages: Comprehensive models for research and revitalization” carried out at the University of Warsaw, in collaboration with the Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas (IDIEZ), Adam Mickiewicz University and the Pedagogical University of Cracow.

Our project focuses on three endangered languages in two countries: Nahuatl in Mexico; and Lemko and Wymysorys in Poland. The conference will be held in Wilamowice, southern Poland, where Wymysorys—a severely threatened ethnolect and the only remnant of a former Middle High German language exclave —is spoken, and where a number of revitalization initiatives have been taking place in recent years. Topics covered in the conference will be:

• Language, identity and culture

• Interdisciplinary approaches to endangered language maintenance and extension

• Bottom-up solutions and grassroots initiatives in language revitalization: strategies, success stories, theory and practice

• Importance of academic research and language documentation for revitalization programs

• Importance of historical identity and traditional knowledge in revitalization

• Recreating and strengthening literary culture in minority/indigenous groups

• Cognitive potential of indigenous/minority languages: implications derived from linguistic and psycholinguistic research

• Multi/bilingual language education


Submit questions about the conference to:

Visit the host organization’s website:

Practical information about the Conference is located here.

Thanks for reading!

Living Tongues featured in Al Jazeera article on India’s endangered languages


Thanks to Bijoyeta Das from Al Jazeera English for interviewing us for this article about India’s endangered languages and the use of social media to help revive them.

“Communities abandon languages when they internalise the negative values connected to their identities, says Greg Anderson, director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. “Language endangerment is almost always the result of discrimination and bias. Technology levels the playing field,” he says. “But there is no quick fix,” he cautions.

[…] Anderson and K David Harrison launched eight online talking dictionaries as part of the Enduring Voices Project by National Geographic Society and Living Tongues Institute. These dictionaries contain more than 32,000 word entries, and include Ho and Remo of India.”

Read the whole article here.

Indigenous Languages Panel @ Canadian Festival of Spoken Word

This panel took place at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word on Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory at the MAI in Montreal, Quebec, on Nov. 9th 2013. It featured distinguished indigenous language activists, poets and scholars. They drew from First Nations oral traditions, spoken word and linguistics to discuss and celebrate indigenous languages in Canada. Panelists explored current threats that their languages face, and presented examples of community education initiatives that are underway to stop language extinction by engaging new generations of speakers. Among many topics, oral transmission, writing systems, phonetics, digital art forms and new media were discussed.

We wish to extend a big thank you to everyone involved in this event! Thank you to the MAI, to the Festival, and to the Festival Director Moe Clark, to everyone who attended, and to everyone who gave presentations. We would like to emphasize how amazing it was to hear all of the panelists’ stories. It is so important to hear about their experiences and approaches to language conservation and revitalization directly from the language warriors themselves. Miigwech.

ImageFrom left to right: Melody McKiver (Anishnaabe), Vera Wabegijig (Anishnaabe), Anna Luisa Daigneault (Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages), Jacques Newashish (Atikamekw). Photo by Leonor Daigneault.

ImageIndigenous Languages: Heritage and Spirits / Langues autochtones: patrimoine et esprit. Photo by Leonor Daigneault.


ImageFrom left to right: Chelsea Vowel (Plains Cree), Kahtehrón:ni Iris Stacey (Mohawk), Leith Mahkewa (Oneida / Hopi / Mohawk), Manon Tremblay (Muskeg Lake Cree), Louise Halfe Sky Dancer (Cree). Photo by Leonor Daigneault.


For more details on this panel, and for bios on all of the participants, please see our event page:



Song from the Mountains: Voices of the Koro Aka at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

by Allison Taylor-Adams (guest blogger from Polyglossic)

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival took place over two weekends on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I’m lucky enough to live in DC, so it was just a short bus ride for me to get to spend a whole day exploring the “One World, Many Voices” program. The program participants had much longer journeys, having traveled from such far-flung locations as Hawai’i, Colombia, Russia, and Bolivia. One group, the Koro Aka speakers of the Himalayan Mountains of northeastern India, had to travel for nine days to arrive at the Festival – a trip that involved taxis, buses, more taxis, and connections through four different airports.

The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages has a special relationship with the Koro Aka. I was happy to be asked to write a guest blog post for Living Tongues, and was given the opportunity to speak with some of the participants from the Koro Aka tribe. I interviewed Khandu Degio, a basket weaver and spirit house maker, and later spoke with Sorsomi Degio, a weaver, with the translation help of Bhokta Newar, a member of the nearby Nishi ethnic group who traveled with the Koro Aka delegation to assist them throughout the festival.  (You can tell from my audio tracks that the festival was a bustling, busy event!)


Allison Taylor-Adams interviewing Sorsomi Degio and Bhokta Newar.

Photo by Aaron Adams.

The Koro Aka live among a group of people called the Hruso Aka, or Aka. According to Khandu, the Koro and the Hruso share many similarities – “the way we dress, the way we celebrate our festivals, the way we cultivate our farms…[in many things] we may be very similar – except in our language.” While the Hruso Aka are a fairly large tribe, made up of over 30 different clans or “family names”, the Koro Aka are much smaller, with only 4 family names.

Until just a few years ago, Koro Aka could be described as a “hidden” language.  Khandu explained:  “many researchers, many scientists, many authors came [to our villages] – the only saw Aka…They had never gotten to know about Koro.  They researched only ‘Aka.’  So any time any kind of researchers came there, they recorded only ‘Aka’ and they took their information from the Hruso Aka, the Koros were never known to them. But [in 2008] David Harrison and Greg Anderson*, both of them came there and they went to a small village there, where there were many Hruso speakers…but ultimately they came to know that there was another kind of person, called Koro.”

I asked him if the Koro and the Hruso Aka always knew they were speaking two different languages, and he replied, “Yes, of course! They are totally different!”  He gave the example of a greeting in Koro:

And the same greeting in Hruso Aka:

“Totally different,” Khandu reiterated. He explained that his father is Koro Aka, and his mother is Hruso Aka. Khandu said, “I was so lucky that in my home there were both Koro and Hruso speakers.”


Khandu Degio performing a Koro dance, with Ramda Degio in foreground.

Photo by Aaron Adams.

As is the case with many communities in the world, the Koro Aka are remarkably multilingual. Khandu speaks Koro and Hruso as well as Hindi and English; Sorsomi speaks Koro, Hindi, Miji (the language of a neighboring tribe), and some English. Both Khandu and Sorsomi said that the younger generation of Koro is growing up speaking both Hindi and English, the two official languages of India. I asked Khandu about the state of the Koro Aka language. He said that it is an endangered language, and pointed out that the biggest problem is that Koro Aka does not have a writing system (he also noted that Hruso Aka suffers the same problem).  “There is not any written record. That’s why anything, any story, any traditional beliefs somebody has… we speak it verbally, we’ve inherited it from our ancestors, from our fathers, from our parents, only by listening and by hearing and by memorizing, because we do not have a script of our own. That’s why I think it is an endangered language.”

Sorsomi Degio is employed by the Indian government to teach school to the youngest children in the community. She says she teaches in Koro Aka and Hindi, but all of the texts for school are only available in Hindi and English. When I asked her and Bhokta if they wanted Koro Aka to have a writing system, they both said “yes!” simultaneously. Sorsomi said that illiteracy is a problem in the Koro Aka community, and Bhokta said that roughly 70% of Koro Aka are illiterate, but added that “nowadays people are giving much more emphasis on education.”  Sorsomi said if she would love to be able to use written Koro Aka in her lessons.

This echoes Khandu’s feelings. He said that he hopes that many students will be able to study in the Koro Aka language, and hopes that the coming generation will have texts in Koro Aka.

When I asked Sorsomi what her favorite part of the Koro Aka language was, she smiled and said, “the songs.”  Bhokta asked me if I’d like to hear a Koro Aka song, and Sorsomi cleared her throat and started to sing:


Sorsomi Degio singing at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Photo by Aaron Adams.

Bhokta explained: “The meaning of this song is, wherever there is a party, let’s go! We can meet each other from different part of the people. Let’s go together and enjoy.  Let’s go!


Koro Aka Spirit House Celebration at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Photo by Aaron Adams.


About the Author. Allison Taylor-Adams has bachelor’s degrees in Religious Studies and Russian Language and Literature from the University of Oklahoma, and has just received her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts-Boston.  She blogs about languages, language learning, and linguistic diversity at Polyglossic.  She also loves lace knitting and hiking in the woods, both of which are activities that can conveniently be accomplished while also talking and thinking about languages.


*Living Tongues Editor’s Note:

Thanks to Ms. Taylor-Adams for her wonderful guest blog post, and to Aaron Adams for the the photos!

The Koro Aka language has been a priority for linguists Dr. K. David Harrison and Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson in part because, prior to their research, it was not acknowledged or listed in the scientific record as a distinct language, nor were any recordings available. Koro Aka remains a mystery in terms of its position within the Tibeto-Burman language family. Harrison and Anderson’s comparative work will help scientists understand where it fits and how it has evolved within the Eastern India Language Hotspot. Click here to learn more about the Koro Aka.

Endangered Languages Story Map


endangered languages story map

Explore the One World, Many Voices story map, encounter speakers of endangered languages from around the world, and learn what they are doing to save their languages.

Produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with Esri. Special thanks to Anne Pedersen and Eliot Reiniger, Smithsonian Institution; K. David Harrison and Jeremy Fahringer, National Geographic Society Enduring Voices Project / Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages; Lee Bock and Allen Carroll, Esri.

Map launched as part the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2013.

Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

One World, Many Voices

Of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world today—many of them unrecorded—up to half may disappear in this century. As languages vanish, communities lose a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human mind.


The One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will highlight language diversity as a vital part of our human heritage. Cultural experts from communities around the world will demonstrate how their ancestral tongues embody cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies, and arts.

Through performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations, and hands-on educational activities, highly skilled musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, craftspeople, language educators, and other cultural practitioners will come together on the National Mall to share their artistry, knowledge, and traditions; to discuss the meaning and value of their languages to their cultural heritage and ways of life; and to address the challenges they face in maintaining the vitality of their languages in today’s world.

ImageFestival visitors will be able to talk with Kalmyk epic singers and Tuvan stone carvers from Russia, Koro rice farmers from India, Passamaquoddy basketmakers from Maine, Kallawaya medicinal healers and textile artists from Bolivia, Garifuna drummers and dancers from Los Angeles and New York, and many others.

When a language disappears, unique ways of knowing, understanding, and experiencing the world are lost forever. The expert culture bearers participating in the One World, Many Voices program will richly illustrate these different ways of knowing and show how cultural and language diversity enrich the world.

The One World, Many Voices program is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with UNESCO, the National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project, and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Initiative.

2013 Festival Schedule

47th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall,

Washington D.C., USA.

June 26-June 30 and July 3-July 7, 2013

Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Evening events 5:30 p.m.

A full schedule will be available in June 2013.


K. David Harrison at the University of Montana

On Wednesday, 17 April, Mizuki Miyashita of the UM Linguistics Program hosted a series of events with Dr. K. David Harrison, an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic fellow. Two days before Dr. Harrison’s visit, there was a viewing of the documentary “The Linguists” (in which Dr. Harrison is featured). At Q&A event following the film, Dr. Harrison updated his audience on his most recent projects: Enduring Voices, jointly ventured at National Geographic, and Talking Dictionaries at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Dr. Harrison’s public lecture, “Endangered Languages: Local and Global Perspectives,” was very well-attended, and every copy of his book “When Languages Die” was purchased at the book-signing. Dr. Harrison explains that out of approximately 7,000 world languages, 83 are spoken by 80% of the world’s population, and the rest by indigenous or small language communities around the globe in regions which he calls “Language Hotspots.” For example, the Ös language (also known as Chulym) of the remotest regions of Siberia is currently spoken by only 7 people. Dr. Harrison has made the very first recordings of some of these languages. In some cases, these recordings are of the last speaker’s speech. For instance, one of his Talking Dictionaries is of the Siletz Dee-Ni language in Oregon, currently spoken by only one person. Harrison describes how language death eventually leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. These endangered languages contain “traditional knowledge” of plants, animal species, ecosystems and medicinal remedies. Sometimes language loss translates to the loss of worldviews.

At his talk, he also discussed efforts to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity worldwide and showed the audience original field materials and recordings of “language warriors” to illustrate local perspectives on language endangerment and extinction. As Dr. Harrison stated, “speakers generally love their languages, and want to keep them.” One of the video clips Harrison shared was of a young man singing a hip hop song in Aka (spoken in Northeastern India). Some Aka elders disapprove of the language being used in this way, but according to Harrison these young speakers are a “key to keeping the language.”

About half of world’s languages are predicted to become extinct in this century, including Native American languages of Montana. This event also raised an awareness of endangered indigenous knowledge encoded in languages of Montana, and brought together a diverse group of people: faculty and students of Linguistics, Anthropology, Native American Studies, Communication Studies, Environmental Studies and Music, as well as members of local Indigenous communities including Salish, Kootenai and Blackfeet.

The event was supported by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Department of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Studies, Department of Communication Studies, and Department of Native American Studies, Department of Society and Conservation in the College of Forestry and Conservation, Green Thread, the UM Linguistics Club, and the Linguistics Program.

Here are some photos from K. David Harrison’s trip:

ImageDr. Harrison at the University of Montana.

ImageK. David Harrison with Salish tribal linguists Germaine White and Tom Smith.

For more details about his lecture at the University of Montana, check out this article published in the Missoulian. Thanks for reading!

Harrison’s “The Last Speakers” published in Japanese


K. David Harrison’s acclaimed book “The Last Speakers” was recently translated into Japanese and published in Japan, which is home to nearly a million speakers of a dozen endangered languages, such as Ainu, Amami, Kunigami, Miyako, and others.

He was interviewed by National Geographic News Watch about the book:

Q: What do you hope will be the results of having this new translation available?

A: The Last Speakers features personal narratives of “language warriors” from around the world, who are taking heroic measures to save their languages. I hope that the endangered language communities and allies in Japan will find these stories inspiring, and know that they are not alone in their efforts, but are part of a global grassroots movement to save language diversity.

To read the rest of the interview, click right here.

Thank you to all of our donors!

Without you all, our Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea would not have been a success. We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all of our donors:

Tarek Milleron, Dave Prine, Jessica Illman, Anna Belew, Michael A. Hall, Allison Taylor-Adams, Laetitia Chaneac, Julie Kanakanui, Barbara Partee, David Robinson, Arpiar Saunders, Eric Raimy, Molly Allison-Baker, Robert Munro, Nori Heikkinen, David Nolin, John Ziker, Lee Wilson Ballard, Emily Gref, Mikael Siren, Ryan Henke, Robert Wessling, Sarah Truesdale, Katherine Vincent, Claire Catania, Ulrike Christofori, Boise State Linguistics Lab, Walid Saleh, Chris Donlay, Debbie Anderson, Carla Hurd, Fran Osborne, Laurence Cotton, Sema Balaman, Kimberly Jackson, Sarah Laskin, Audrey Van Herck, James Glenz, Edward Hess, Carley Hydusik, Tamra Wysocki-Niimi, Carl Franco, Bryony Rigby, William Graeper, Tania Reino, Ilona Staples, Nancy Mariano, Stephen Holt, Alex Francis, Alex Sinton, Carole Smith, Bewenca, M. Skelly, Les and Janice Lederer.


12 hours left!

We have 12 hours left to raise $2750 on Indiegogo. Our goal with those funds is to teach a 4-day digital media skills workshop at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (UNITECH) in which local indigenous students will learn how create new Talking Dictionaries for their own native languages.

Please help us out by chipping in! Thanks for your support!


ImageLanguage Documentation Fieldwork in Papua New Guinea: John Agid (left) speaking to Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson in Matugar village. Photo by Chris Rainier.