Endangered Languages Database: Introduction to Resource and Terms of Use

Please read the following information carefully before searching the database. In 2011, researchers at the World Oral Literature Project compiled a database of language endangerment levels. Data on language endangerment were 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 were included in the subsequent database. Population statistics were primarily taken from the Ethnologue, and three-letter ISO codes were provided where possible to facilitate search.

The World Oral Literature Project does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the materials that our researchers compiled from these three sources, and the Project does not have the staffing capacity to keep these resources up to date. Our goal was simply to aggregate the data sets in order to facilitate comparison. Finally, the World Oral Literature Project would like to advise users that speech communities have richer and more complete understandings of their linguistic realities and learning needs than aggregated datasets can convey. The datasets provided here should therefore be understood as illustrative rather than authoritative.

The 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 releasing their materials to the wider public and facilitating comparison. We would also like to thank Eugenio Tacchini for the DaDaBik software and to Aidan Pine of Mother Tongues for his assistance with updating the interface as platforms changed. 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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