Recording oral discourse in Papua New Guinea

Olympus is proud to be a sponsor of the Basic Oral Language Documentation: Papua New Guinea project.

There is a pressing need to document the world’s linguistic heritage while there is still time. The consequence of language shift is that many genres — and many whole languages — are quickly falling out of use.  Professional linguists are compiling grammars and dictionaries, but this is painstaking work, and is not keeping up with the pace of language loss.  This project is addressing the problem by training university students and literacy teachers to collect and curate oral texts from indigenous languages.  The focus is on Papua New Guinea, which has 830 languages, many having fewer than 500 speakers. This project is recording and transcribing indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea, using voice recorders donated by Olympus.  Papua New Guinea is home to over 800 languages, many with few remaining speakers, and many with minimal linguistic documentation.  The work is being done by university staff and students who speak the local languages.

We hope to collect narratives, dialogues and songs for 100 languages, using the technique of “Basic Oral Language Documentation” (BOLD).  Materials will be freely available for non-commercial use.  The project runs for one year, from 21 February 2010 (UNESCO International Mother Language Day).

For more information on this project visit


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