SOAS University of London

SOAS World Languages Institute to collaborate with Southbank Centre to preserve poems in endangered languages

28 September 2017

Dr Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Director of the SOAS World Languages Institute, is taking part in a major new project led by Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library to collect and preserve poems in endangered languages. The launch of the Endangered Poetry Project also coincides with National Poetry Day on Thursday 28 September.

According to UNESCO, of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world, over half of these are endangered with languages dying at the rate of one every two weeks. Their figures estimate that by the endof the century half the world’s current languages will be lost which will also mean the loss of unique poetic traditions

Southbank Centre Royal Festival Hall

Via an international call-out, members of the public will be invited to submit a well-known poem in a language that is endangered or under threat, according to the UNESCO map of endangered languages. Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library will collect these poems in both written and audio formats for their archives with the aim of preserving at least one poem in each language it receives.

Dr Seyfeddinipur will work with the library to preserve the poems in both their original language and in English. She said: “The Endangered Poetry Project will enable people from around the world to share their endangered language through poetry. We very much look forward to learning and discovering the history, stories and culture of the world’s many endangered languages through poetry – and importantly preserve them for future generations.”

Dr Seyfeddinipur will talk about the project in a free event, Seven Thousand Words for Human, on Saturday 14 October as part of Southbank Centre’s Poetry International festival. The event will also feature the world premiere performance of four brand new poems commissioned by Southbank Centre in languages that are under threat.

SOAS is a leading centre for the study of languages of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The SOAS World Languages Institute brings together SOAS’s strengths in language-based research in arts, humanities and social sciences to develop leading inter-disciplinary academic initiatives in languages and linguistic research, language documentation and preservation, and digital language resources.

To find out more about the National Poetry Library Endangered Poetry Project visit the Southbank Centre website.