Established in early 2010, the Endangered Language Alliance is working to document some of these languages through collaboration with local communities of speakers here in NYC as well as abroad. In these efforts we have collected hundreds of hours of recordings which we would now like to use as a basis for educational outreach.
We are looking for help in visualizing our data, enhancing the functionality and usability of our database, and generally improving our WordPress site to allow for great access.
Work can be done remotely and, although it is unpaid, we can offer an incredible learning opportunity and connection to world class scholars and artists working on these important issues. It will be an adventure!
Details follow below — interested parties can contact:
The following represent some of the challenges we now face in bringing this data to life visually and interactively. The crux of each problem is framed as one or two questions. We welcome all takers and would be most happy to further discuss the details with you!
1. Tying world languages to neighborhoods
When discussing NYC’s multilingualism we often hear about languages like Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic and other major world languages. However, within the Mexican enclave of Corona and the East European enclave around Brighton Beach, to take just two examples, we find a multitude of endangered minority language speakers nestled within larger linguistic communities speaking “world languages”.
2. Visualizing the spread of families
The death of individual languages often goes hand in hand with the spread of entire language families at the expense of smaller ones. The expansion and contraction of language families is thus an important part of understanding language endangerment and death.
The UNESCO map is the result of a scientific study on the numbers of speakers of as many languages as there exists substantial data for. The National Geographic map is a less refined map which tries to convey in more general terms which geographic areas contain the most small endangered languages (endangerment “hotspots”).
3. Case studies in language transmission
4. Vocabulary learning in endangered languages
5. Language contact and etymologies
If I were to put you in front of a dock and I pulled up a skid in front of you with fifty hundred-pound sacks of potatoes and there are fifty more skids just like it, and this what you’re going to do all day, what would you think about – potatoes? Unless a guy’s a nut, he never thinks about work or talks about it.
– Studs Terkel “Working”
The articulation of consonants is generally characterized by the constriction and partitioning of the oral-pharyngeal vocal tract, with the addition, in the case of nasal or nasalized consonants, of coupling of the nasal cavity system.
– Clark et al “An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology”
Note that in the technical passage only the function words like “the”, “of” and “in” were originally native to English. All the nouns and verbs are derived from Latin. Although the above passages are taken from work that was written in the last several decades, we would be correct in concluding that the development of science in the English speaking world ultimately emerged from Roman roots. With the vast majority of the world’s languages, this type of linguistic archeology has only just begun. We would like to apply similar analyses to some of the languages we are working with.