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Language Contexts

Article series in Language Documentation and Description
Edited by Peter K. Austin and Lauren Gawne
June 2017


1. Background

This series provides a publishing avenue for information about the contexts in which a given language or variety is spoken, rather than about the structure of the language/variety itself. This includes information about the speaker population, social organisation, main cultural aspects and the linguistic ecology, including language vitality, use and transmission within local community contexts, in the diaspora and in cyberspace. Articles will also include discussion of other languages/varieties in use by speakers, including any socio-cultural factors affecting language/variety choice. It is intended that the articles provide rich social, cultural and ethnographic contextual information that complements existing reference materials such as Glottolog or Ethnologue. We would expect that the main contributors to the series will be researchers, including community members, who have worked on an ethnography, language revitalisation, language documentation, text collection, or descriptive grammar for a PhD dissertation or post-doctoral research project, and who thus would have detailed knowledge of a community and the contexts of language use but have not had an avenue to publish about it so far.

Compiling information about language contexts constitutes original research, and should receive professional acknowledgement. By providing a platform for consistent and high quality publications of this genre EL Publishing aims to increase the professional recognition that this work constitutes important linguistic research. We also seek to provide new accurate up-to-date information on languages/varieties and their contexts that is not otherwise available.

2. Editorial process

Articles in this series form a subset of EL Publishing’s regular Language Documentation and Description journal volumes. Lauren Gawne and Peter Austin are the editors of the Language Contexts series. The articles in this series will be double-blind peer reviewed and will be published under a Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial), which means they will be Open Access, at no expense to the author, and free to download.

3. Content of articles

We have a broad conception of what Language Contexts will cover. Here we give a rather extensive set of possible features that might be included; some areas may involve more detail than others, depending on the particular situation. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, and authors may wish to include other topics, so long as they are relevant to the contexts of language use. Articles are expected to normally be 5,000-7,000 words and we strongly encourage the inclusion of images, maps and other illustrative material, especially links to online resources and material available in repositories or archives. If you wish to include media samples (audio, video clips) with your article please consult with the editors.

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 solved, 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

Vitality status

Note that this section is not intended to be a rigorous vitality study, which is an entire research project in itself. Instead, it is intended to draw on the author’s observations to assist in assessing the vitality of the language.

  • 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

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

Social organisation

If the social organisation of the community pertains to language maintenance or shift you may wish to discuss how this is the case. For example, if women marry into this community from a different language group, or if grandparents are given the role of primary carer.

Material culture

You may wish to have a section that discusses features of material culture that have a bearing 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

The aim for this section is not to provide simply a list, but to draw attention to the best quality, or most useful resources and highlight key gaps. As part of publishing this article we ask that you check the relevant Glottolog entry (or entries) and ensure their reference list is up to date and comprehensive.

4. Examples of the genre

The initial article in this series Kagate (Syuba) is part of Language Documentation and Description Volume 13. As new articles in this series are released they can be found on the EL Publishing website.

5. Linking

You can ensure your article has the widest possible impact in a number of ways. You can use the information in your article to update a number of key public sites:

6. Style guide

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