Press area

General background information

Currently approximately 7000 languages are spoken worldwide (many of them with a number of dialects). However, it is assumed that by the end of the 21st century, only one third – maybe even only one tenth – of these languages will continue to exist. As language is a unique expression of the intellectual heritage and cultural knowledge of each speaker community, ways of conceptualizing the environment and social structure will be irretrievably lost with the death of a language. In 2000 the VolkswagenFoundation started the DOBES programme (Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen) in order to document languages that are potentially in danger of becoming extinct within a few years’ time. In 2000 the pilot phase was started with seven documentation teams and one archiving team, with the intention of coming up with recommendations of how language documentation can work, and how the digitial archiving can best be done. Since then, new documentation teams were selected on a yearly basis in order to carry out significant documentation work within 3-5 years. 67 documentation projects have been funded and the funding program has come to its final round in 2011. In 2006 the first documentation teams have finished their contractual phase, but many teams still carry on with the documentation work even after their granted period. Yearly workshops are being held in which all past and present documentation projects meet in order to exchange experiences and results. DOBES – as an initiative and as a collective of researchers – has had a major impact on the direction that language documentation has taken, concerning theoretical issues, questions of best practice in documentary work and technical tools and standards. More…

Contact persons

For further questions or inquiries about interview partners, please contact the DOBES archive manager.