Category Archives: Indigenous Language Activists

Dr. Greg Anderson interview: Global Journalist

Global Journalist interviewed our Director, Dr. Greg Anderson, on the topic of reviving North America’s endangered languages.

Here is a quote from his interview: “These [languages] are the cultural libraries, the legacies of an entire lineage of history that stretches back millennia. [Language] is an unbroken window into the past; it helps shape people’s identity, their religion, their personal narratives, their cultural narratives… it’s really the main vector of identity for indigenous people.” View full video here:

Munda Languages Initiative: 2016 update

2016 was a very busy year for the Munda Languages Initiative. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson travelled to India to lead community trainings, and continued weekly digital  collaboration sessions with Living Tongues project coordinator and Mundari speaker Dr. Bikram Jora, as well as Sora speaker and Munda researcher Mr. Opino Gomango. They both reside in India and have been leading field survey efforts there for several years in various different communities. The excellent results of their fieldwork are a strong testament of our vertical integration model of collaboration.

Local and international collaborators on the Munda Languages Initiative in India
Local and international collaborators on the Munda Languages Initiative in India

For the Gta’ language,  work on a Boasian three (Texts, Lexicon, Grammar) will be finished in late winter 2017, as that project comes to a close. Through a series of community training programs, Dr. Anderson and our local researchers, in collaboration with Gta’ speakers, have collected hundreds of hours of new linguistic and ethnographic data. This data will help reshape our understanding of the pre-history of the tribal belt of highland Middle India.

The Gta’ Talking Dictionary is being expanded by year’s end to include more than 5,000 new entries and 250 ethnobotanical terms. We would like to give a huge shout-out to our collaborators Budura Raspeda and his kinsmen Angara Raspeda, Parboti Raspeda, Lojkong Raspeda and Lachmu Raspeda whose invaluable assistance and patience has made this possible.

For the documentation of the Gutob language,  the project is ongoing through 2018, and Dr. Greg Anderson is collecting Gutob texts and lexicon in collaboration with Gutob speakers.

Two short field trips led by Mr. Opino Gomango to the Korku-speaking areas took place in 2016. Small Talking Dictionaries for Parengi-Gorum and Korku hare also underway.

Field surveys led by Dr. Bikram Jora in Munda tribal communities in Jharkhand yielded great results. We have made a nearly complete survey of the Birhor language and we are approaching a nearly complete survey of Bhumij as well. An ongoing survey of Ho is underway.

Dr. Bikram Jora travels to a Munda community to conduct field surveys.
Dr. Bikram Jora travels to a Munda community to conduct field surveys.

The Birhor, Bhumij and Ho communities are participating in the vertical integration model of collaboration we have developed in the region. We would like to acknowledge the excellent work accomplished by community participants such Kameshwar Birhor and Madhuri Birhor (Birhor), Gaytri Sardar and Sando Sardar (Bhumij) and Palo Purty and Rinky Purty (Ho).

Also, initial contacts have been made with Turi speakers in Jharkhand as that one moves into the first stage for 2017. Future surveys will cover the remaining ten or so Kherwarian varieties spoken across Jharkhand, northern Odisha, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh.

We have also begun surveying ‘dialects’ of Sora in Odisha. For one such dialect, Juray, in a published study by Anderson and Gomango we have re-confirmed a 35-year old hypothesis that Juray should be considered a distinct language. Two other non-standard ‘dialects’ we are investigating, Sarda-sor and Tenkala-sor, may also turn out to be separate languages, but the data are still being analyzed.

The Sora ‘dialect’ survey is led by Sora speaker Opino Gomango and local Sora activist Indam Mondal, in collaboration with local language activists Bodudev Bodomundi for Tenkala-sor, Dinobandu Gomango for Juray and Warnebik Gomango and Srinivas Gomango for Sarda-sor. (Note that Gomango is a very common title/surname among Sora people, and of the previously mentioned activists with this name, none are actually related to any of the others.)

Opino Gomango presented talks based on a joint study by him and Dr. Anderson on the status and structure of Juray at conferences in Shillong, Meghalaya, India and in Hyderabad and the XXth International Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages.

Dr. Bikram Jora presented co-authored papers with Dr. Anderson at the large-scale all-India ICOLSI conference in Guwahati, as well as at the Austroasiatic conference in Shillong on Birhor, focusing in the first talk on directional and spatial constructions in Birhor and in the second on the decline of Birhor today due to the detrimental effects of internal neocolonialism and ethno-linguistic hierarchies at play in India.

Dr. Bikram Jora and Dr. Greg Anderson travel to a conference to speak about their recent findings.
Dr. Bikram Jora and Dr. Greg Anderson travel to a conference to speak about their recent findings.

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Jora were among the invited speakers, each delivering separate papers, at the Austroasiatic Syntax workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A new view of the history of the Munda languages that makes a more nuanced approach to the varied influences that helped shape these languages as they moved from Southeast Asia into South Asia was presented there to a very enthusiastic reception.

Dr. Anderson gave an invited talk on the typology of Munda languages at a workshop in Uppsala, Sweden. He also delivered an invited  talk on the elaborate and varied system of reduplication seen in the Munda languages at a workshop in Bremen, Germany.


For detailed background information on the Munda project, read more here.

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Get Involved: International #MotherLanguage Day (Feb 21)

UNESCO’s Mother Language Day is fast approaching; it’s this Sunday, February 21st! The theme this year is “Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes.”
Read more on UNESCO’s website.


International Mother Language Day was founded to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity around the world, especially indigenous, minority, heritage, and endangered languages. Here are ways to get involved online, and in person.


Tweet #MotherLanguage | In collaboration with other language activism organizations and partners, we invite you take part in this social media campaign. Join other language ambassadors online by tweeting and following the #MotherLanguage hashtag.


Below, we have compiled a selection of events and celebrations taking place in the United States and Canada on February 21, 2016. There are many more happening on an international scale. Please check out International Mother Language Day Events Around the Globe on Facebook to find one in your country.

New York, USA |  The Endangered Language Alliance is co-hosting an event with Wikitongues and the Language Conservancy at the National Sawdust Theater in Brooklyn, New York, this Sunday, February 21st. Join the event here.


If you are in New York, you can also join NYC Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, to celebrate International Mother Language Day at Queens Museum. This celebration will honor the diverse and rich languages spoken throughout our great city, featuring agency and community information tables, spoken word performances, as well as an activity corner with oral history and art. Join the event here.

Oakland, California, USA | The Aikuma Project is hosting a Treasure Language storytelling event in 5 languages for International Mother Language Day. “Each language is shining a little torch somewhere. These are treasures for the whole of humankind.” – Nicholas Evans (Language Matters with Bob Holman, PBS). Join the event here.

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Tucson, Arizona, USA | The American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) is hosting a series of events for Mother Language Day, including public displays, panel discussions and film screenings. Learn more on their website.


Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
| Hosted by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, this event will feature presentations, performances and visual displays of local indigenous and heritage languages, including Hul’q’umi’num’, Cree, Punjabi, Cantonese and Tagalog. The Canadian Language Museum’s newest exhibit, “Cree: The People’s Language” will also be featured. Join the event here.


The Endangered Alphabets Project designed a poster in honor of International Mother Language Day. They write, “As many of you know, the day is especially important to the nation of Bangladesh, where the right to speak their own language was a vital part of their move to gain independence from Pakistan. IMLD was born as a recognition of what are known as “language martyrs”—students who were massacred by the Pakistani Army in 1952 for protesting the right to speak their mother tongue.”

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There are more international events listed on these sites:

From everyone at Living Tongues Institute, we hope you have an excellent International Mother Language Day 2016!


Micronesia Language Revitalization Workshop

by K. David Harrison and Gregory D. S. Anderson

A Language Revitalization workshop was held over 4 days in July 2013 in Kolonia, Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) hosted by the Island Research Education Initiative (IREI) and the FSM National Dept. of Education and Special Education Program. Greg Anderson and David Harrison of the Living Tongues Institute led the workshop, which aimed to leverage new digital technologies in support of Micronesian languages. Yvonne Neth of IREI was the local coordinator and partner.

The fifteen participants in the workshop represented eight indigenous language communities: Pohnpeian, Pingelapese, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, Namolukese (dialect of Mortlockese), Yapese, Mokilese, and Kosraean. Language activists taking part in the workshop included Johnny Rudolph, Maynard Henry and Kurt Erwin representing the Nukuoro language; Danio Poll, Jason Lebehn and Monique Panaligan representing Mokilese; Yapese language activist Caroline Dabugsiy; Namolukese language activist
John Curley; Leilani Welley-Biza and Darlene Apis representing Pingelapese; Howartson Heinrich, Kapingamarangi language speaker; Arthur Albert representing Kosraean; and Pressler Martin and Mario Abello representing Pohnpeian.

We covered a variety of topics, including audio recording techniques, word and sentence elicitation, photo elicitation, lexicography, and building talking dictionaries. Further, the participants began building nine new Talking Dictionaries, and beta-tested a new interface that allows speakers to edit and record lexical items directly via their web browsers.

The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages team that ran the workshop consisted of five members with the following division of labor:

  • Dr. Greg Anderson—co-leader of workshop, linguistic documentation
  • Dr. David Harrison—co-leader of workshop, linguistic documentation
  • Jack Daulton—Ethnographic interviewing and photography
  • Roz Ho—Technology advising
  • Oliver Anderson—videography

The participants were energized by the workshop and delighted to be taking part. As Johnny Rudolph, Nukuoro language expert, put it: “The workshop was a great one and everybody did enjoy it very much and most importantly…[it] guided us to see and understand the importance of preserving our languages before losing them.” Johnny continued: “As for our Nukuoroan language, I feel very enthusiastic and enlightened with what we’ve learned… I chose to move forward and continue to build the Nukuoroan Lexicon into the computer system while inserting sounds, photos and perhaps to start teaching others how to use the Nukuoroan Lexicon on the internet while holding Nukuoroan language classes in either in public school or in other special educational learning settings.”

The nine dictionaries created during the workshop currently have nearly 12,000 lexical entries, many with soundfiles, and some with cultural photos. Community members will continue to expand these in the near future, and will use them in language revitalization efforts.

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Link to all dictionaries:

Following the workshop, the team visited remote Mwoakilloa Atoll, a landmass of only 0.8 square miles located in the outer reaches of Pohnpei State in the FSM. Here we continued work on the Mokilese language and collected words, sentences and folk stories from both elder and younger speakers in Mokilese. These will be added to the Mokilese Talking Dictionary and our YouTube video channel in coming months. We observed and conducted interviews about oral history, traditional foodways, fishing, outrigger canoe building, and navigation technology.

Mwoakilloa represents a unique and endangered speech community within Micronesia, as the Atoll has a permanent population of under 100 people. With most Mowoakilloans living away from the atoll, the language is vulnerable. At the same time, the community has mounted ambitious efforts, including a new Bible translation, children’s books, and the Talking Dictionary in an attempt to stabilize the language. We are grateful to Roz Ho and Jack Daulton for providing financial and technical support during the expedition. Jeremy Fahringer at Swarthmore College developed nine new Talking dictionaries for the workshop. Taking part in both the workshop and the trip to Mwoakilloa was Yvonne Neth, Vice-Director of IREI.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.34.20 PMJack Daulton and Roz Ho elicit and record Pingelapese words with Leilani Welley-Biza.
Photo K. David Harrison.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.36.28 PMMario Abello (Pohnpeian), and David Harrison with Nukuoro language team Kurt Erwin,
Johnny Rudolph, and Maynard Henry. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.37.40 PMCaroline Dabugsiy, Yapese speaker, interviews with Pressler Martin (Pohnpeian), David
Harrison and Oliver Anderson. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.38.46 PMDay 3 of the workshop, at the FSM Department of Education. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.40.12 PMIchiro John, Mwoakilloan elder, interviews with Greg Anderson and David Harrison.
Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.41.16 PMCaroline Dabugsiy, Yapese speaker, records with Greg Anderson. Photo Jack Daulton.

Howartson Heinrich builds the Kapingamarangi Talking Dictionary.Howartson Heinrich builds the Kapingamarangi Talking Dictionary. Photo Jack Daulton.

Kapingamarangi women in Pohnpei making traditional handicrafts.Kapingamarangi women in Pohnpei making traditional handicrafts. Photo Jack Daulton.

Micronesia-7Maria Matthias and Carolina Joel shelling clams they harvested from Mwoakilloa lagoon.
Photo Jack Daulton.

Micronesia-8Traditional Mwoakilloan outrigger canoe (war), built by Abram Joel. Photo Jack Daulton.