HutThe CU Linguistics department has long emphasized the documentation of endangered and poorly described languages, with a focus on fostering the survival of these languages through curriculum development.

The Department views fieldwork as a central component of the empirical study of language, and offers graduate training in field methods. Research efforts center on video capture of conversational discourse and the production of usage-based grammars and dictionaries.

The Department houses four outreach centers devoted to indigenous languages of the Western United States: the Center for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the West, the CU Lakhota Project, the CU Wichita Project and the CU Arapaho Project. 

Language specializations are diverse:

  • Prof. Zygmunt Frajzyngier specializes in Chadic languages of West and Central Africa, and has published grammars of seven languages belonging to three branches of Chadic, as well as dictionaries of Pero, Mupun and Hdi. Frajzyngier, along with Adjunct Assistant Professor Erin Shay, also focus on the wider Afroasiatic phylum, having edited the first volume on typological characteristics of the phylum, The Afroasiatic Languages (2012, Cambridge University Press).
  • Prof. David Rood works with Siouan and Caddoan languages of North America, while Prof. Andrew Cowell works with Algonquian languages of North America and Polynesian languages.
  • The Department also hosts a Meso-American languages initiative, which involves both fieldwork and work with immigrants in the greater Denver area. Documentation efforts have focused on Huichol, Mezquital Otomi and Mayan languages. CU Linguistics faculty use the latest annotation software, including ELAN and FLEx, and are working increasingly closely with computational linguistics faculty to create annotated corpora of endangered languages.
  • Funded by the NSF/NEH-funded Documenting Endangered Languages program, Prof. Cowell and his research team are creating and enhancing interconnected textual and lexical databases of Arapaho.
  • Recent CU Linguistics dissertations focus on Sakun (Nigeria, Central Chadic), Makary Kotoko (Cameroon, Central Chadic), Arapaho, Lakhota, and languages of Indonesia.