How do we know what we know about the world’s languages?




Thieberger, Nicholas

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



There are at least 7,000 languages in the world and a great deal of the knowledge that is reflected in these languages is at risk of being lost. While, in the past, this has been a colonial enterprise, only of benefit to the outsider researcher, more recently there is a change in practice that focuses on collaboration and partnership with speakers of these languages. The new challenge is how to provide longevity for their work. One form of redress is to find and digitize all the records that have been made, thus preserving them, and to make them available for the speakers and their communities. The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) holds a collection of nearly 150 terabytes, representing 1,310 languages. I will present recent work on visualizing what is now known and how these new methods can be more responsive to community needs.