Towards a Comprehensive Language Catalogue

One-day workshop at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, 28 June 2007 (Seminar room 4th floor)
(organized by Martin Haspelmath)

At this informal workshop, we want to discuss ways in which linguists can collaborate towards the ambitious goal of creating a Comprehensive Language Catalogue. At the moment, all available language catalogues (such as Ruhlen 1987, Moseley & Asher 1994, Gordon 2005) are limited in the amount and quality of information on the world's languages that they provide.

9.00-9.15 Martin Haspelmath (MPI-EVA): Welcome and introduction

9.15-9.30 Christian Lehmann (U Erfurt): Language names (glossonymy)
9.30-10.00 discussion

10.00-10.15 Michael Cysouw (MPI-EVA) & Jeff Good (U at Buffalo): Towards a comprehensive languoid catalogue
10.15-10.30 discussion

10.30-10.45 Tapani Salminen (U Helsinki): From language checklists to a language catalogue (cf. Europe&North Asia language list)
10.45-11.00 discussion

11.00-11.30 coffee break

11.30-12.15 Anthony Aristar (Linguist List), Östen Dahl & Ljuba Veselinova (U Stockholm): Geographical information, LL-map and GIS (geographical information systems) (Aristar's PPT, Dahl's PPT, Veselinova's PPT)
12.15-13.00 discussion

13.00 lunch break

14.00-14.15 Kazuko Obata (AIATSIS Canberra): The AUSTLANG project (and Profile) (See also the AUSTLANG  website)
14.15-14.30 discussion

14.30-14.45 Guillaume Segerer (CNRS-LLACAN Paris) & Erhard Voeltz (U Frankfurt/M): Databases of African languages (see LLACAN database)
14.45-15.00 discussion

15.00-15.30 Anthony Aristar: Genealogical information and Multitree
15.30-15.45 Balthasar Bickel (U Leipzig): What kind of genealogical database does modern typology need?
15.45-16.30 discussion

16.30-17.00 coffee break

17.00-17.30 Harald Hammarström (Chalmers U, Gothenburg) & Michael Cysouw: Bibliographical information (Hammarström's PDF, Cysouw's PDF)
17.30-18.00 discussion

18.00-19.00 How to make further progress

Further participants:

Peter Austin (SOAS London)
Joan L.G. Baart (SIL International)
Thomas Blecke (Bamako, Mali)
William Croft (University of New Mexico)
Swintha Danielsen (University of Nijmegen)
Jean-Marie Hombert (University of Lyon 2)
Juliane Kabisch-Lindenlaub (Universität Erfurt)
Laurent Romary (Max Planck Digital Library)

Anyone else who is interested is welcome to attend. This is not a closed workshop, but a maximally open one. The speakers are not invited speakers, as there is basically no funding for the workshop. If you want to attend, it would be nice to contact Martin Haspelmath before, but you can also drop in spontaneously.


There seems to be general agreement that it would be desirable to have a language catalogue that provides at least the following types of information:

* geographical information: ideally for each language we would know not just roughly where it is spoken (in terms of a single central point or a vague polygon), but we would have detailed information on all the settlements where its speakers live

* genealogical information: ideally we would like to know not only what the current majority view on genealogical trees is, but also what alternative proposals there are and what evidence and criteria both the majority view and alternative theories are based on in detail

* bibliographical information: ideally we would like to have a complete list of bibliographical  references for all the lesser-known languages

* glossonymic information: ideally we would like to have comprehensive information on language names, which for each name explains its domain of use and its origin (as far as this is known); ideally such a list of language names would be multilingual

* sociological information: ideally for each language we would know at least an estimate of how many speakers there are and, if relevant, an estimate of the degree to which the language is endangered.

*historical information: for many languages, we also have diachronic information on all of the above aspects, and this should also be integrated into a database.

At this workshop, we will discuss the specifics of the field's desiderata and possible ways of moving closer to achieving them.

(Note that this workshop is held just after a meeting on a related topic, Wikifying Research.)