The Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS) is a non-profit institution founded in January 2010 in Minde (Portugal) by a group of national and international researchers. CIDLeS aims at improving and deepening research in two linguistic areas: language documentation and linguistic typology. Besides the documentation, study and dissemination of European endangered and minority languages CIDLeS is also engaged in the development of language technologies for scientific and didactic work on lesser-used languages. CIDLeS has three research groups (CIDLeS Media Lab, Language Documentation and Language Typology and Language Revitalization) whose projects are interrelated with the aim of fostering interdisciplinary research.
According to data of Ethnologue.com and the Volkswagen Foundation (DoBeS – Documentation of Endangered Languages) and the numbers revealed by the UNESCO report published on February 19th 2009 in the online edition of the newspaper Público there exist around 6700 languages worldwide. 2500 of these languages are endangered, with the main areas being India (196 endangered languages), the United States of America (192), Indonesia (147), China (144), Mexico (144), and Russia (136). These languages are in danger of extinction and the process of extinction is increasing dramatically. During the last 60 to 70 years around 200 languages disappeared, 12 of them in Brazil. The case of Brazil is worth special attention. The UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger reveals that in Brazil there are now 81 endangered languages, 45 of them critically in danger of extinction. The raising of awareness of these numbers (that decrease as the linguistic research in different areas around the globe increases) and the realization by the linguistic community of the scientific and socio-cultural consequences of language endangerment have led to the implementation and development of language documentation as an autonomous research subject within linguistics. In addition, technological developments in recent years have massively improved the means of documentation (collection and storage) and the data processing possibilities for the language data that has been collected.
Language Documentation and General Linguistics
Language Documentation was only recently recognized and established as a linguistic discipline (late 90s of the 20th century). However, the areas of interest as well as its subjects of study (documentation, study and revitalization of endangered languages) have been of interest to all linguists, especially to those who worked in the area of general linguistics with a broad experience of fieldwork (for example Bernard Comrie, Gipert Jost, Johannes Helmbrecht, Peter Austin, R.M.W. Dixon, William Croft, William Foley, Wolfgang Schulze). Note that the concept of “general linguistics” of which we speak here follows a strong typological approach with a research focus on non-Indo-European languages.
It is in this context that CIDLeS was founded in Portugal, targeting areas of language documentation (and associated disciplines like sociolinguistics, ethno-linguistics, anthropological linguistics, etc.) and all aspects of language typology. From a national point of view, CIDLeS will not only give a new perspective to linguistic research but also open up new horizons for linguistic work in Portugal. One example would be the introduction of the Portuguese language and the results of its research into typological discussions, releasing it from using solely the approaches of Romance studies. Thus, CIDLeS will also support a wider dissemination of the works on Portuguese in the international scientific community outside the field of Romance studies, and consequentely foster Portuguese linguistics itself.