Research Articles

Language documentation and ecology: areas of interaction

  • Gail Coelho


Language documenters and ecologists need to recognise that there is one issue that is of mutual concern to both, namely the relationship between ethnic groups and the natural environment in which these groups live. Linguists are well aware that the preservation of an endangered language depends on the preservation of the community that speaks the language. A community’s culture develops in relation to its biological environment. Language and culture are closely linked in that language encodes and expresses culture, while culture provides the social context in which language is used. Therefore, when a minority community’s cultural traditions are endangered by disruption of their relations with their traditional environment, these threats to their culture can be expected to affect their use of language. Linguists, therefore, have reason to take an interest in the relationship between ethnic groups and their biological environment, and to work with ecologists in designing environment conservation programmes that respect and address the needs of indigenous groups whose livelihood depends upon the areas that these programmes seek to conserve. These mutual interests provide a basis for collaboration between linguists and ecologists in saving the languages and cultures as well as the natural environments of indigenous groups living in...

Keywords: language documentation, ecology, culture, social context, environment, environmental conservation, indigenous groups, collaboration, language preservation

How to Cite:

Coelho, G., (2014) “Language documentation and ecology: areas of interaction”, Language Documentation and Description 3, 63-74. doi:

Download PDF



Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed