AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin’s Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation’s partnership on Documenting Endangered Languages.
The grant will allow AILLA to digitize and archive eight major collections of materials from prominent researchers on endangered languages of Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, adding to the more than 100 indigenous languages already in its archives.
“When a language dies, a culture dies,” said Joel Sherzer, AILLA director and Liberal Arts Foundation Centennial Professor of Anthropology. “Latin America is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world, but most of these languages are disappearing, as the speakers succumb to social and economic pressure to speak only Spanish or Portuguese.”
The new collections, which consist of cassette and open-reel tapes of indigenous people telling stories, singing songs and explaining the history of their cultures, will be converted to high-quality .wav files for archiving and MP3 files for user convenience. All of AILLA’s archives are available for free download from their Web site.
“The collections are used in multicultural courses in Europe and the United States,” said Heidi Johnson, program coordinator. “Researchers, especially linguists, use the archive to share data with their colleagues in other parts of the world. But our most important users are the speakers of indigenous languages in Latin America, who can go to info centers and schools and Internet cafes and download recordings of their grandparents and uncles and friends telling the great stories of their people.”
AILLA plans to document the digital archiving process in order to publish guidelines that can be used by others in the field who wish to use the technology.
To learn more about the archives or to download recordings, visit Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America online.