ExplorersBio

Gregory Anderson

Linguist

Fellow (2010-2013)

Photo: Greg Anderson

Photograph by Chris Rainier

Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a non-profit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages. In addition to endangered languages, Anderson is widely published and a recognized expert in historical linguistics, descriptive grammar, morphology, verb typology, and the linguistics of Munda, Turkic, Burushaski, Salishan, and Ogonoid languages. Anderson has (co-) authored ten books and over 75 academic articles and edited several volumes on a wide array of topics. His recent books include Language Contact in South Central Siberia (2005), Auxiliary Verb Constructions (2006, paperback revised edition 2009), The Munda Verb: Typological Perspectives (2007) and The Munda Languages (2008). Anderson is National Geographic Society fellow and heads the scientific research for the Enduring Voices Project. Anderson designed the scientific criteria for assessing language hotspots. The first version of the hotspots map was published in National Geographic magazine in October 2007 and has since become a leading metaphor for the global distribution of language extinction. A revised version of the language hotspots map is to be released in 2011.

In 2004, Anderson co-founded with David Harrison the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a 501(c)(3) non-profit (officially incorporated in 2005) dedicated to the documentation and maintenance of the world’s vanishing linguistic diversity. Living Tongues designs linguist-aided, community directed projects. Living Tongues has become a leading voice in promoting global awareness about the language extinction crisis. Projects of Living Tongues are currently operating in India, Siberia, Papua New Guinea, the United States, and Paraguay.

Anderson is an experienced fieldworker, having worked with speakers of languages on site in countries from every inhabited continent. This includes Siberia (Russia), Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, India, Bolivia, Australia, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and the United States.

Anderson lectures extensively and conducts media interviews with a wide range of media outlets in print, radio, and television. Anderson was also the subject (along with David Harrison) of the widely acclaimed independent documentary film The Linguists, which debuted at Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and on PBS television in 2009. Anderson received his AB in Linguistics and Germanic Languages from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD in Linguistics from University of Chicago in 2000. He currently resides in Salem, Oregon, where he directs the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

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Projects

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    Enduring Voices

    The Central Siberia language hotspot boasts few indigenous languages compared with most. However, it holds six language families, two of which have only one remaining language, and almost all of the languages here are endangered. Russian-only government policies have extinguished a number of Siberian languages over the last few generations, and many living languages here have only a few elderly speakers.

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    Eastern Siberia

    Though eastern Siberia contains few languages compared to other language-rich locations, it holds ten "genetic units" (e.g., one genetic unit being Romance languages). It is notable, therefore, for its genetic diversity and for its extreme endangerment. Many Siberian languages have been lost in the last few generations due to government policies that force speakers of minority languages to use the national language.

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    Nat Geo E-Team

    What are Greg Anderson and the rest of the National Geographic Explorers up to? Meet the E-Team and learn about their projects in this interactive mural.

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