SOAS University of London

Endangered Languages Archive

What Can I Deposit with ELAR?

ELAR accepts documentation of endangered languages in digital form.

Types of materials

Language documentation materials should always be carefully prepared for archiving. Note that some materials should not be archived, such as those for which you do not have the rights to do so, those that are of extreme sensitivity or potentially create danger for contributors, or materials that are not in (or convertible to) preservable formats.

Please contact us at for advice about selection criteria

Broadly, language documentation consists of a collection of resources including one or more of the following:

  • audio recordings
  • video recordings
  • notes
  • sociolinguistic/demographic/historical information
  • transcriptions, translations and/or annotations
  • photographs, diagrams, scanned images
  • descriptions and explanations of recorded events
  • lexical and/or other linguistic information (semantic, grammatical etc)
  • ethnographic and related information
  • metadata

with an emphasis on recordings of authentic language use and value added to them through associated contextual notes, transcriptions and translations, and comprehensive metadata.

More information about language documentation (also called ‘documentary linguistics’) is available from the page Documenting Languages.

Digital form

ELAR archives only digital materials, that is, computer files.

If you have analogue materials, such as cassettes, fieldnotes, photographs, manuscripts, and you are prepared to digitise them, please contact us for advice about digitising techniques and settings. In limited cases, we may be able to provide digitisation services.

Criteria for language endangerment

ELAR does not impose any formal criteria for what counts as ‘endangered languages’ content. We recognise that language endangerment comes in many forms, and exists in many stages. In addition, there are language genres and practices in many communities that are endangered, even if the community's language is not (yet) under tangible threat. There are guides to language vitality (e.g. from UNESCO, UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, SIL, SIL's Ethnologue, and others) but in general ELAR will accept a depositor’s description of a language situation. Where appropriate ELAR will seek advice from other knowledgeable sources.


You can only archive materials for which you have rights to do so (for example, you are the creator of the materials, or you have permission from the creator, and permission from those who were recorded). ELAR's Deposit Form asks you to assert those rights.


ELAR recognises that endangered languages materials can be associated with sensitivities and thus can require controlled access. We provide a comprehensive Access Protocol system enabling depositors to select, manage and update access to their materials. Depositors can specify access conditions on part or all of their deposit, or on individual files. While you need to respect restrictions required by the language speaker or community, ELAR prefers as much material as possible in open access (either full open access, which is coded as ‘O’ in ELAR's scheme, or access after registration and agreeing to the ELAR Terms and Conditions, which is coded as ‘U’ in ELAR's scheme). If much of your deposit needs to be in controlled access, please identify at least some resources that can be freely viewed by all ELAR users.

Note: ELAR archives all materials from ELDP grantees, but if you are not a grantee, ELAR strongly prefers to archive materials where the majority of files are on open access.