Designing Mobile Applications for Endangered Languages

TitleDesigning Mobile Applications for Endangered Languages
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsBird, S.
Published inThe Oxford Handbook of Endangered Languages
ISBN Number9780190610029

Speakers of the world’s endangered languages are rapidly gaining access to broadband internet on mobile devices. Meanwhile, social mobile technologies continue to transform the way people work together. I believe that conditions are ripe for the development of a new generation of software for endangered languages. This software will enable new ways for linguists to collaborate with speakers in ancestral homelands and worldwide diasporas to produce high-quality large-scale documentation. This chapter sets out a conceptual framework and describes some concrete steps for designing mobile applications for endangered languages, recognizing the special challenges they present, such as reliance on oral materials, lack of established orthography, and lower digital literacy.


The work reported here was developed and refined with the help of participants in two workshops held in the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University: Workshop on Technology and Wellbeing in the Top End (April 2016), and Keeping our Languages Strong: Workshop on Mobile Apps for Language Documentation (September 2016). I am grateful to Greg Wadley, John Hatton, Florian Hanke, and Mat Bettinson for conversations about the material presented here. This work has been funded by the Northern Research Futures Collaborative Research Network, the ARC Centre of Excellence in the Dynamics of Language, and by National Science Foundation Award 1464553 Language Induction meets Language Documentation: Leveraging bilingual aligned audio for learning and preserving languages.


ICSI Research Group