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Assessing linguistic vitality

A number of people and organizations are developing tools to assess linguistic, cultural and biological diversity, such as the following:


Joshua Fishman developed the Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale in his 1991 publication:

Fishman, Joshua. 1991. Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations of Assistance to Threatened Languages: 87-111. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.


Margaret Florey and members of the Maluku Research Team developed and piloted a Linguistic Vitality Test (LVT). Further detail on the test is available at this link.

A description of the test is published in this downloadable UNESCO volume:

Florey, Margaret 2009 "Supporting Indigenous languages and Indigenous knowledge: developing community training approaches for the 21st century", in Peter Bates, Moe Chiba, Sabine Kube and Douglas Nakashima (eds.) Learning and Knowing in Indigenous Societies Today: 25-37. Paris: UNESCO.

This test was then used and further developed by Romola Rassool in her research on Sri Lanka Malay. Further details on the tools used by Rassool are at this link.


David Harmon and Jonathan Loh Index of Linguistic Diversity (ILD)

The ILD is the first global index of trends in linguistic diversity, as measured in changes in the number of mother-tongue speakers of a globally representative sample of languages. The objective is to provide solid quantitative data that will show whether the world’s languages (particularly indigenous languages) are losing speakers, and if so, at what pace. A published discussion of the ILD is available as a downloadable PDF from the link below:

Harmon, David and Loh, Jonathan. 2010. The Index of Linguistic Diversity: A New Quantitative Measure of Trends in the Status of the World's Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Vol. 4: 97-151


Stanford Zent Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (VITEK)

The VITEK is a locally-appropriate, globally-applicable indicator focused on trends of retention or loss of TEK over time. It is the first tool of its kind to rate the vitality status of TEK (i.e. inferrable trends of retention or loss over time) within selected groups and allow for relative comparisons of that status among groups at different scales of inclusiveness.


Patrick McConvell and Nick Thieberger identified 10 language endangerment indicators which they used to assess the vitality of Australia's Indigenous languages:

McConvell, Patrick. 2005. National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
McConvell, Patrick, and Nicholas Thieberger. 2001. State of Indigenous languages in Australia - 2001, Australia state of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series No. 2 (Natural and Cultural Heritage). Canberra: Department of the Environment and Heritage.


UNEP May 2010 Vitality of indigenous languages of the Arctic in Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010


UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages. 2003. Language Vitality and Endangerment

UNESCO's Language Vitality and Endangerment tool was designed to assist language communities, linguists, educators and administrators to finding ways to enhance the vitality of threatened languages. The method includes six factors to evaluate a language’s vitality and state of endangerment, two further factors to assess language attitudes, and one additional factor to evaluate the urgency of documentation. Taken together, these nine factors are useful for characterizing a language’s overall sociolinguistic situation.