Endangered Languages

The United Nations predicts that over half of the world’s 7000 languages will become extinct by the end of the 21st century. It is our goal at PISL Research to preserve as much of the cultural, historical, and scientific value of a language as possible for current and future generations. Many other linguists are working together on a global scale to protect these endangered languages as well. Here is another project (by Bowery Arts and Sciences) summarizing the value of language preservation.

AISL Conference 2012

Back at the end of August and just into the beginning of September, we had our AISL Conference 2012 in commemoration of the 1930’s AISL conference. We have photos from the conference up on the “AISL Conference 2012” page which you can find the link to at the top of this page, just under the banner. We will also have video clips from the conference up shortly.

The Coyote Story

We’d like to thank Ron Garritson for his continued work with and support of our American Indian Sign Language project. Ron (Métis) is an adept signer and an educator. We are glad to have someone like him on our team and working to save and revitalize this language.

Below is Ron’s telling of The Coyote story. Included are captions for an English translation as well as a sign-by-sign GLOSS of the story. We hope you enjoy it.

More videos of AISL/PISL are on their way. We are working with our collaborators in order to bring you the best translations and most accurate GLOSSes.

A blurb from Indigenous Languages and Technology

The Internet: A lifeboat for endangered languages?

Published 30 November 2011 – Updated 05 December 2011

Although the English language continues to dominate the Internet, the
rise of global economic powerhouses like China and Russia has seen a
surge in what used to be considered second-tier languages, a Brussels
conference heard last week. Meanwhile, the UN predicts that half of
the world’s 6,000 languages will become extinct by the end of the

Access full article here.

World Federation of the Deaf Conference

Early in November the WFD met in Ål, Norway. Their topic this year was “Sign Languages as Endangered Languages”. The conference pulled from many different professions (academics, language policy experts, representatives from deaf associations, and deaf community members) and brought to light many issues that affect sign languages worldwide. The link below will take you to their page where they have posted both a written and a signed summary.

View the summary here

Articles That We Have Been Featured In

Here are some links to two articles from prominent magazines that featured some of the work from our project.

Indian Country Today

National Science Foundation’s Science Nation


The Battle of the Little Bighorn

This is a video of a recounting of The Battle of the Little Bighorn. It is presented simultaneously in three languages: English (Francis Takes Enemy), American Sign Language (Lin Marksbury), Plains Indian Sign Language (Ron Garritson). The full video will be available soon.

Emergent Technologies

Fortunately, emergent technologies now enable us to create video recordings, and integrate them with text and other explanatory or analytical material. It is essential to carefully archive language documentary materials, because such materials have irreplaceable value for language communities and for linguists and other researchers. Digital archives allow possibilities never before imagined: catalogues are accessible and searchable from anywhere with internet access, materials are easily deliverable by network or on DVDs, and communities can express sensitivities or restrictions to control access to certain materials. For example, our PISL project is developing an extensive linguistic corpus and multimedia digital collection of lexical signs, grammatical features, and discourse genres. The project brings together sign language linguists and members of American Indian signing communities to make language and the information conveyed more accessible vis-à-vis emergent documentary linguistic technologies and using captions, voice-over, slow motion and careful explanation (encompassing technologies such as iMovie or FinalCut Pro and QuickTime, iMovie, iDVD and ELAN) to make the digital corpus accessible to scholars, community members, and broader audiences.

About the Hand Talk Project

It is widely recognized in the fields of linguistics and anthropology that one of the most important issues facing humankind today is the rate at which our languages are dying. If the present trend continues, during the 21st century more than half of the world’s 7000 languages could become extinct, and most of these will vanish without being adequately recorded. The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have recognized the extreme urgency of documenting and describing endangered languages. With 2009 – 2011 support from the NSF’s Linguistics Division (BCS-0853665 and BCS-1027735), Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) Program, this project aims to: describe the linguistic nature and underpinnings of PISL; bring together sign language linguists and members of the PISL signing community for the purpose of language documentation, description, and to draw attention to this important, yet often times overlooked part of American Indian cultural and linguistic heritage. The project also provided PISL Linguistic Documentation Workshops on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, August 11 – 15, 2010, in collaboration with stakeholders from American Indian communities and tribal colleges.