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.

36 hours left!

Here is an important message from K. David Harrison, our Director of Research, about our current Indiegogo fundraising campaign:

Dear friends of Living Tongues,

This is K. David Harrison writing to you to let you know there are 36 hours left in our fundraising campaign to raise money for creating new Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Your gift will go towards training students to create cutting-edge Talking Dictionaries for some of the world’s most under-documented languages. Please consider donating today.

Donate here:

For those of you who have already donated, I want to say thank you for you generosity, and for helping language activists and linguists to safeguard linguistic diversity around the world.

Thank you!

K. David Harrison, Ph.D
Director of Research
Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages

ps. Check out the Talking Dictionaries we have already built, along with new ones for minority languages in Latin America:

Image K. David Harrison working with speakers of the Matukar language in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Chris Rainier.

Talking Dictionaries of Latin America

We are pleased to announce that 14 new Talking Dictionaries for Latin America are now under development and are available for online viewing and listening. The new dictionaries were created in collaboration with indigenous speakers, linguists and technical specialists at two recent digital skills workshops in South America.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.50.50 PMThe Mam, Mapudungun, Mazahua, Miahuatec Zapotec, Monkox Besiro, Pipil (Nahuat), Quechua Chanka, Tsesungun and Yanesha were produced in Chile at our digital skills workshop called “Voces Duraderas” that we held at the Biblioteca de Santiago in Chile. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson and Anna Luisa Daigneault traveled to Chile to teach the workshop in January 2013. We would like to acknowledge the great work of the following indigenous speakers who attended the event and learned the digital skills necessary to build these new dictionaries:

– Andres Ozuna Ortiz (Yshyr-chamacoco, Paraguay)
– Anselmo Nuyado Ancapichun and Jonattan Laoiza Ancapichun (Tsesungun, Chile)
– Espíritu Bautista and Elmo Bautista (Yanesha / Amuesha, Peru)
– Judith Condori Gavilán (Quechua Chanka, Peru)
– María Inés Huenuñir Antihuala (Mapudungun, Chile)
– Emiliano Cruz Santiago (Miahuatec Zapotec San Bartolomé Loxicha, México)
– Verónica Fidencio Núñez (Mazahua, México)
– Carlos Enrique Cortez (Pipil / Nahuat, El Salvador)
– José Reginaldo Pérez Vail (Mam, Guatemala)
– Ignacio Tomicha Chuve (Monkox Besiro, Bolivia)

Many thanks to Eddie Avila from Rising Voices who helped us facilitate the workshop, and to Cristian Maturana and the rest of the staff at Biblioteca de Santiago who helped us make the “Voces Duraderas” workshop a success for all who took part.


Talking Dictionaries of Colombia

The Talking Dictionaries for Nasa Yuwe, Sáliba, Embera, Uitoto and Wayuunaiki were produced by a team of linguists, indigenous specialists and language activists at a workshop at the Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Colombia. Dr. K. David Harrison traveled there in October 2012 to help facilitate the workshop and produce these dictionaries, which are still under construction. Check out our blog posting about his trip.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 2.17.18 PM

These online dictionaries are a powerful educational tools for communities that are trying to revitalize their endangered languages. Each site is programmed to be bilingual so that speakers of the local dominant language can easily use it. It serves as a resource to help fluent speakers teach their native language to a new generation of speakers.

These Talking Dictionaries were created by the Enduring Voices Project funded by the National Geographic Society and Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. Additional support and hosting by Swarthmore College. Interface and database design under the direction of Jeremy Fahringer.

If you love Talking Dictionaries as much as we do, please consider donating to our fundraising campaign to build 12 new Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Thanks for reading!

Indiegogo Fundraising Campaign for Talking Dictionaries in PNG

ImageGibe and Pipe, Huli wigmen, in the Southern Highlands of Papua new Guinea. Traditional ceremonial paint colors: Mali-ambua-hare, Waterfall: Iba-Fugu. Photo by Chris Rainier.

This post is about our fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. We have 9 days left to raise $2750 that will go towards creating new Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea. Please consider donating. Thank you for your support.

Background. Every two weeks, the last fluent speaker of a language dies, and humanity loses another language. Nearly half of the world’s languages are likely to vanish in the next 100 years.

Over the last decade at Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, we have worked with hundreds of people dedicated to endangered language documentation around the world. Through community collaboration, we have made some of the first-ever digital recordings of dozens of endangered languages, and we have traveled to many countries to train language activists in documentation techniques that can help preserve their cultural and linguistic legacy.
Papua New Guinea’s Languages. The island nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) represents the greatest single concentration of linguistic diversity on earth, with 830 listed languages identified thus far, and an unknown number remaining to be scientifically documented.
Without PNG, no survey of the world’s languages would be complete, nor would our understanding of the current global process of languages extinction. With so many of PNG’s languages being undocumented and in danger of disappearing, now is the time to start creating recordings of these languages, and helping local activists and students to create materials that can preserve their languages for the future.


Our goal 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. We have been invited by local scholars in Papua New Guinea to give this workshop later this year in October (2013), and we are raising the funds to make it happen.

Please donate! Our workshop is partially funded thanks to grants and donors, but we need a further $2750 to help cover the rest of our equipment and travel costs. Over 50 different local languages are represented at UNITECH. We aim to create Talking Dictionaries for 12 languages to start with, and then return once a year for the next 4 years to continue building more dictionaries with the students.
This will be the 4th time we teach a digital skills workshop of this kind, and the first time in the Pacific. Check out pictures and write-ups from our previous workshops for speakers of endangered languages (organized in collaboration with National Geographic) held in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA); Shillong, Meghalaya (Northeast India) and Santiago (Chile).


What is a Talking Dictionary? It takes the traditional paper dictionary to a whole new level. It is an interactive online tool that digitally preserves words and phrases, and it allows the user to hear high-quality audio recordings of words in their language, as well as record and upload new content.

The tool is a powerful educational tool for communities that are trying to revitalize their endangered languages. The online dictionary is programmed to be bilingual so that speakers of the local dominant language can easily use it. It serves as a resource to help fluent speakers teach their native language to a new generation of speakers.

Talking Dictionaries help create visibility for minority languages on the Web. They are a virtual space where speakers can go to listen to their language, no matter where they are in the world. Take a minute to check out our Talking Dictionary Portal, and our new site for the Talking Dictionaries of Latin America.

Why We Can Make a Difference: At the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, we are a small and dynamic team with a low overhead. We coordinate big long-term projects, such as the Talking Dictionaries, on a modest budget. Supporting us is a great way to support the creation of tools that will preserve threatened languages for future generations of speakers.

Thanks to a Talking Dictionary, you can listen to forms of human speech that you’ve never heard before, and get a further glimpse into the rich diversity of languages spoken on our planet.

We have a good relationship with a number of communities in Papua New Guinea because we have done language documentation there in the past. Here are some images from our fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in 2009.

Please donate online to our fundraising campaign!

Thanks for reading.

– The Living Tongues Team



“Festival of Words” and Talking Dictionary Workshop in Colombia

ImageIn October 2012, Dr. K. David Harrison traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, to participate in the 3rd annual “Festival de la Palabra” (Festival of Words) in honor of the diversity indigenous languages and cultures in Colombia.

The event was organized by the Instituto Caro y Cuervo. More information, including the event program, can be found on the event website, which describes the event as follows:

“El Festival de la Palabra Caro y Cuervo en su tercera versión está dirigido a presentar la riqueza cultural de diversas comunidades indígenas de nuestro país a través de manifestaciones culturales (música, danza, arte propio, medicina tradicional), esta es una oportunidad para compartir un espacio alrededor de la palabra.
El Festival de la Palabra Caro y Cuervo es el evento más destacado dentro de las actividades que la institución desarrolla en el marco de la conmemoración de sus 70 años de existencia. La programación incluye talleres, conferencias y mesas redondas sobre lenguas nativas en las que participarán representantes de las comunidades indígenas, estudiosos e investigadores de estas comunidades; así mismo habrá una muestra artística y cultural. El evento contará también con la participación del lingüista David Harrison quien es conocido por sus estudios de lenguas en peligro de extinción.”

In conjunction with the festival, Dr. Harrison was also involved in teaching a Talking Dictionary Workshop. He met many leaders in the field of indigenous language activism in Colombia. Here are some of his photos, and the rest of the slideshow can be viewed on his Living Tongues photo album on Facebook.

ImageProf. Eudocio Becarra (Uitoto language expert) with Páez (Nasa Yuwe) team members Yesenia Rincón Jimenéz and Anania Piñacue.

Embera team recording: Angelica Maná Avila, Daniel Aguirre, Lina Tobón Yagaií


Audience at K. David Harrison lecture on digital dictionaries

Instituto Caro y Cuervo, Bogotá, Colombia

BODY OF WORDS: Announcing our Guest Blog Series on Language Loss

by Anna Luisa Daigneault

What is a language? A cultural code, an invisible ink, the sonic architecture of how we think… A language is a breath of life, and when it is endangered, it becomes a fragile treasure. Webs of meaning start to fade, carrying with them stories untold, and impoverishing humanity as a whole.

What is a linguist? A wordsmith, a lover of terms…    A deep-sea diver of minds. A sorter, a hacker, a surgeon of the soul – a kind of acrobat who goes careening into structural unknowns. A linguist of under-documented languages is an explorer who seeks to study  languages that are well-known to its native speakers, but new to science.

Whether we speak one language or five, language defines our human experience. All of our interactions and communication are mediated by language. For those of us who love languages, we cannot deny the troubling nature of the following fact: more than half of the world’s languages and dialects are going to disappear in the next century. What does that mean for the speakers of those languages? What does it mean for humanity?

This unprecedented decrease in linguistic diversity is linked to globalization, among many other factors. It is time for the public to be aware about these issues, and to share opinions in the global dialog about endangered languages.

Along with two guest writers, Allison Taylor-Adams and Indira Sarma, I am starting a summer guest blog series entitled Body of Words. We hope that you will help us spread the word about our blog series, and respond to our posts with questions and comments.

We will be discussing various issues surrounding language loss and recovery, including: the impact of boarding schools on speakers of indigenous languages, the use of new technologies and social media in language revitalization, knowledge systems encoded in languages and what their loss means for mankind, challenges in language documentation and other relevant subjects.

By discussing these issues, we hope to dispel some of the misconceptions about endangered languages, celebrate language diversity and promote efforts currently underway to protect endangered languages. Stay tuned for our first article in the series, coming out on July 4th, 2012.

Living Tongues Institute regularly encounters perspectives on language endangerment that we believe our blog readers would find thought-provoking, fascinating, debatable and challenging. This guest blog series is a forum for such opinions. The views expressed belong to the author and are not necessarily shared by Living Tongues Institute.


Hishuk Ish Tsawalk: Everything is One

Living Tongues project coordinator Anna Luisa Daigneault recently wrote an article about Nuu-chah-nulth language revitalization efforts on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. View the full article here. Kathy Robinson, First Nations language activistImage above: Kathy Robinson is a language warrior. At the age of 81, she is one of the last two fluent native speakers of Tseshaht (pronounced “tsi-sha-aht”), a language once popularly spoken on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The Tseshaht people are one of 14 Nations that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.