Documentation of Endangered Languages​​

The initiative "Documentation of Endangered Languages​​" takes stock

Since 2000, the Volkswagen Foundation has allocated 28 million euros for linguistic projects in 71 regions on all continents. From June 5-7, 2013, more than 150 experts from around the world will discuss the results of the initiative and an agenda for the future in Hanover.

According to extimates by UNESCO, about half of today's 6,500 languages will become extinct within the next one hundred years. "Large languages" such as Chinese, English, Spanish and Portuguese dominate the world. Even today, three-quarters of all other languages only present minute numbers of speakers that account for only one percent of humanity in total.

But if a language dies, this also means that a piece of the cultural diversity of our world dies with it. In 1999, the Volkswagen Foundation therefore initiated  the program "Documentation of Endangered Languages" (DobeS). Since then, some 100 languages from northeastern Siberia to the Marquesas Islands were documented with the support of the DobeS-program.

The goal of the initiative was to make sure that testimony to these language cultures, which are mostly only passed on by word of mouth, is recorded for future generations. This is achieved in a digital archive of endangered languages, the DobeS Portal of the "Language Archive" in Nijmegen, Netherlands (

International Conference in Hanover

From June 5 to 7, 2013, project participants and experts from around the world gather in Hanover to take stock of the initiative and define an agenda for the future. For more information on the event, please see "International Conference on the Documentation of Endangered Languages​".

Video on the Documentation of Endangered Languages

In the video portal, the anthropologist Soraya Hosni and her colleagues give an insight into their research on the Pacific island of Ambrym. Here, less than 1,000 people still speak the endangered language "Daakaka". More information under: "Who Can Still Speak Daakaka?"