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About Language Contexts

Article series in Language Documentation and Description, edited by Peter K. Austin and Lauren Gawne

See all available Language Contexts articles


1. Background

Language Contexts provides an avenue for publishing information about the contexts in which a language or variety is spoken, rather than about the structure of the language/variety itself. Articles include information about speaker demography, social organisation, culture, linguistic ecology, language vitality, and language use and transmission in the local community, its diaspora and the Internet. Articles also include discussion of the range of languages/varieties in use by speakers, including socio-cultural factors affecting language/variety choice. Articles aim to provide detailed social, cultural and ethnographic information to complement existing reference materials such as Glottolog or Ethnologue.

EL Publishing aims to increase recognition of this important research. Compiling information about language contexts is original research that should receive professional and academic acknowledgement. The Language Contexts series (a sub-series of our journal Language Documentation and Description) provides a platform for quality publications of this genre with accurate, up-to-date information on languages and their contexts that is not available elsewhere.

Contributors to the series are likely to be researchers, including community members, who have worked on language revitalisation, language documentation, text collection, a grammar, or an ethnography, typically for a project or academic study, and who have detailed knowledge of a community and its language use.

2. Examples

See the Language Contexts page for a listing of available articles.

3. Content of articles

The types of content that contributors can include is very flexible, Below we provide a ‘menu’ of possible information that might be included. The list is not meant to be prescriptive, and authors may include other topics relevant to the contexts of language use. Articles are generally around 5,000-7,000 words in length and we strongly encourage the inclusion of images, maps and other illustrative material, as well as links to online resources and materials in archives. If you wish to include media samples (audio, video) with your article please consult with the editors.

4. ‘Menu’ of possible information categories

Language identification

  • Language name (autonym, exonym, allonyms)
  • Dialects and Varieties
  • ISO 639-3 code and Glottolog code (and/or issues with these classifications)
  • Genetic classification (does not need to be ‘defined’, just discussed)
  • Population (number of speakers as L1 and L2 and/or numbers of members of the ethnic group, if different)
  • Geographical distribution - please provide maps and/or links to online maps


A section presenting the author’s observations to assist in assessing the vitality of the language. This is not intended to be a rigorous vitality study, which is an entire research project in itself.

  • Vitality status
  • Multilingual repertoire of speakers
  • Official status in country/(ies) where spoken
  • Use in education
  • Transmission to children, generational knowledge and use
  • Domains of use, include online and mobile use
  • If research has been done using a scale like UNESCO’s vitality index or EGIDs, mention it here


  • Language social status
  • Historical contact
  • Migration
  • Archaeology

Linguistic neighbourhood

  • Other languages in the area, related and unrelated
  • Language contact
  • Multilingualism
  • Contact languages and lingua francae
  • Diglossia

Linguistic culture

  • Genres and registers of language use
  • Music, song and poetry
  • Literacy
  • Writing system, types of use
  • Literature, published or unpublished
  • Special lects
  • Naming practices
  • Print, radio, television use
  • Digital domain use, including social media

Social organisation

How the social organisation of the community influences language maintenance: for example, if women marry into the community from another language group, or if grandparents are given the role of primary carer

Material culture

Features of material culture that bear on language use, language maintenance or shift, or cultural identity: for example, if the arrangement of labour or the domestic space somehow benefits or is problematic for intergenerational language transfer

Existing literature

This section should go beyond a simple list, to describe the range of available materials, its quality and usage, highlighting key gaps. As part of researching and writing your article, we encourage you to check the relevant Glottolog entry(-ies) and ensure their reference list is comprehensive and up to date.

5. Linking

You can ensure your work reaches the widest possible audience in a number of ways, such as linking to your article (once published) or using the information in your article to update prominent language websites, including:

6. Editorial process

The editors of the Language Contexts series are Peter K. Austin and Lauren Gawne. Submitted articles are double-blind peer reviewed and published at no expense to authors as Open Access publications free to download under a Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial)..

7. Style guide

Please see our Information for authors page for guides on style, submission etc..