SIL tools for language documentation presented at Charting Vanishing Voices workshop

Within SIL there is an increasing focus on issues of language endangerment. Maintenance and preservation of language and culture may be the primary challenge that minority language communities face this century. Our engagement with communities is increasingly aimed at helping them to gain awareness and perspective on that issue and dialoguing with them about how they wish to address it.

-M. Paul Lewis, editor of Ethnologue: Languages of the World and co-developer of the new EGIDS assessment tool

(June 2012) Scholars and digital archivists from a variety of institutions and organizations are coming together 29-30 June for a workshop entitled “Charting Vanishing Voices: A Collaborative Workshop to Map Endangered Oral Cultures.” The event is being held at Cambridge University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). Martin Raymond of SIL’s Non-Roman Script Initiative will introduce several new tools for language documentation developed by SIL.

Raymond’s presentation, entitled “ScriptSource: Making information on the world's scripts and languages accessible,” introduces the concepts underlying SIL’s ScriptSource website. ScriptSource provides a venue for documenting the world’s writing systems. The site launched in 2011 with a core of data on scripts, characters and languages, and researchers are invited to add to this collection. In addition to serving as a valuable reference, the site also provides a platform for collaboration by those who are working to meet writing system needs, such as the development of fonts for use with computers and other devices.

Also included in Raymond’s presentation is a new tool developed by the SIL team that oversees the Ethnologue – the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS). Building on the Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale developed by prominent linguist Joshua Fishman, EGIDS was designed to establish a language’s level of endangerment with greater accuracy. This new scale will be applied to languages in the 17th edition of the Ethnologue, which is scheduled for publication in early 2013.

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