Endangered Language Alliance


In the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, two centers of linguistic diversity stand out: the eastern Caucasus mountains–where a number of endangered Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian (Circassian), and Northeast Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestani) languages are spoken–and the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan, home to several threatened Indo-Iranian languages. The New York area has populations of speakers of the region’s larger languages, such as Armenian, Georgian, Chechen, Azeri, and Uzbek, as well as some of the lesser known languages, such as Juhuri and Bukhori.

With core support from the Persian Heritage Foundation and the Semnani Family Foundation, the Iranic Languages Project encompasses research and education efforts around the region’s endangered languages, particularly those with speakers in the New York area. ELA is working with some of the approximately 30 speakers of Shughni in the city, including lesser numbers of Roshani and Bartangi speakers, and has played a role in the ongoing Shughni Grammar Project at the University of Kentucky. ELA Director Daniel Kaufman led a field methods class at Columbia University on two dialects of Wakhi, resulting in important recordings, student papers, and grammatical analyses. ELA collaborator Raphael Finkel (Univ. of Kentucky) has also worked on an analysis of inflectional morphology in Bartangi. Another effort has focused on Ossetian, an Eastern Iranian language of the Caucasus, spoken by a few individuals in New York. Although some of these languages still have relatively large numbers of speakers–in the tens or hundreds of thousands–intergenerational transmission is increasingly uncertain.

Whether you are a speaker yourself, a partial speaker, or know someone who might be, we are always looking for more resources on lesser-known Central Asian languages. Please get in touch!