NSF announces new Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) solicitation

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has just announced a new Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) solicitation at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11554/nsf11554.pdf, with a deadline of 20 Sept 2011 for proposals (note: not 15 Sept as in past years). Projects must focus on one or more of the following areas:

  1. Language Description: to conduct fieldwork to record in digital audio and video format one or more endangered languages; to carry out the early stages of language documentation including transcription and annotation; to carry out later stages of documentation including the preparation of lexicons, grammars, text samples, and databases; to conduct initial analysis of findings in the light of current linguistic theory.
  2. Infrastructure: to digitize and otherwise preserve and provide wider access to such documentary materials, including previously collected materials and those concerned with languages which have recently died and are related to currently endangered languages; to create other infrastructure, including workshops and conferences to make the problem of endangered languages more widely understood and more effectively addressed.
  3. Computational Methods: to further develop standards and databases to make this documentation of a certain language or languages widely available in consistent, archiveable, interoperable, and Web-based formats; to develop computational tools for endangered languages, which present an additional challenge for statistical tools (taggers, grammar induction tools, parsers, etc.) since they do not have the large corpora for training and testing the models used to develop those tools; to develop new approaches to building computational tools for endangered languages, based on deeper knowledge of linguistics, language typology and families, which require collaboration between theoretical and field linguists and computational linguists (computer scientists).

Proposals from multidisciplinary research teams and those providing training for native speakers are particularly welcome: "Accomplishing the goals of the DEL program may require multidisciplinary research teams and comprehensive, interdisciplinary approaches across the sciences, engineering, education, and humanities, as appropriate. Interdisciplinary research combining the expertise of scientists expands the rewards of language documentation. In each emphasis area, DEL encourages collaboration across academic disciplines and/or communities. For example, a DEL project might pair linguists with computer scientists, geographers, anthropologists, educators and others as appropriate. Examples of community collaborations might include scholars working in well-defined partnerships with native speaker communities. DEL also encourages investigators to include in their projects innovative plans for training native speakers in descriptive linguistics and new technologies which support the documentation of endangered languages. The DEL program is also interested in contributing to a new generation of scholars through targeted supplements, which support both graduate and undergraduate research experience. DEL gives high priority to projects that involve actually recording in digital audio and video format endangered languages before they become extinct."
It is expected that $4.1M ($3.1M from NSF and $1M from NEH) will be available to support projects funded in FY 2012. The Division of Information & Intelligent Systems in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE/IIS) is joining the Division of Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE/BCS) and the Arctic Social Sciences Program in the Office of Polar Programs (OPP/ArcSS) in managing the DEL Program for NSF. For further information about DEL, contact the Program Directors listed in the solicitation. You may also contact me, Terry Langendoen, by email at dlangend@nsf.gov or phone at (703) 292-5088.

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