Research Articles

Digital archives: essential elements in the workflow for endangered languages documentation and revitalisation

  • David Nathan


One of the developments associated with the increased attention to language documentation is the establishment of specialised digital archives that provide key contributions to endangered languages documentation and revitalisation. This paper reflects the perspective and initial experience of the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at SOAS, outlining interactions between linguists and modern digital archives in order to show that archives are now essential participants in the workflow of documentation, and to ask whether the degree of overlap between documentation and archiving is sustainable. This paper has discussed the varied interactions between language documenters and a digital archive, or, more specifically, between language documenters and a range of issues associated with archives. It has identified a central issue for those working with the diverse range of linguists and others who are documenting endangered languages: how to maximise the amount and quality of documentation while taking into account real-world issues of skills, division of labour, and resource allocation. This inevitably leads to the questions of where lie the essential concerns, and boundaries, of both archiving and language documentation?

Keywords: language documentation, digital archives, archiving, endangered languages, language revitalisation, Endangered Languages Archive, ELAR

How to Cite:

Nathan, D., (2014) “Digital archives: essential elements in the workflow for endangered languages documentation and revitalisation”, Language Documentation and Description 5, 103-119. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed