Etnolinguistica.Org: a report from South America
For the past few years, I've been part of a team involved in building an information hub on indigenous South American languages, a place to create and gather online resources for both academic researchers and the general public. The project, Etnolinguistica.Org, started in 2002 as a mailing list. The list quickly evolved into a major forum for the discussion of research topics on South American languages, the promotion of events and online resources—in sum, a meeting point for all those interested in South American linguistics and related areas.
A result of the list's popularity, the website currently comprises more than 700 pages, including conference abstracts, articles, and a comprehensive, up-to-date library of links to open-access periodicals, news articles, and other online resources. The project is community-driven, as the list's users (ranging from experienced scholars to undergraduate students) remain by far our most important sources. Since 2009, the website also publishes Cadernos de Etnolingüística (ISSN 1946-7095), a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal on South American languages.
Our most popular features, in terms of both hits and community participation, are our dissertation repository, which currently lists 165 freely-available theses and dissertations (many of which are author-submitted), and the Curt Nimuendaju Digital Library, which offers hard-to-find, out-of-print books and articles. Named after a pioneer of Brazilian ethnography and linguistics, the library includes, in addition to items digitized by its own volunteer staff or by similar projects, a number of items donated by interested readers (including authors or their heirs).
The direct participation of linguists actively involved in the documentation of South American languages is the main characteristic of Etnolinguistica.Org, contributing to keep our information relevant and accurate. To further contextualize the information we provide, we've recently started a directory of linguists working on South American indigenous languages. Each entry is an individual page containing basic information on the researcher: name, institutional affiliation, means of contact (email addresses are duly protected via ReCaptcha), interest areas, and languages of interest.
The directory is cross-referenced with our ever-growing list of online resources, in such a way that, by clicking on a given language tag, one finds not only a list of online materials, but ways of getting directly in touch with linguists working on that language as well. As a further step towards that goal, Etnolinguistica.Org will launch a catalogue of South American languages later this year (for examples, take a look here and here). That integration between authors and resources will hopefully ensure a certain measure of control, by the scientific community, over the quality of the information being provided.