Documenting Endangered Languages

Division of Preservation and Access

Receipt Deadline September 15, 2017 for Projects Beginning May 2018

Updated guidelines will be posted at least two months in advance of the deadline listed above.

In the meantime, please use the guidelines for the previous deadline, to get a sense of what is involved in assembling an application.

Brief Summary

The Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and advance knowledge concerning endangered human languages. Made urgent by the imminent death of an estimated half of the 6000-7000 currently used languages, this effort aims also to exploit advances in information technology. Awards support fieldwork and other activities relevant to recording, documenting, and archiving endangered languages, including the preparation of lexicons, grammars, text samples, and databases. DEL funding is available in the form of one- to three-year project grants as well as fellowships for six to twelve months. At least half the available funding will be awarded to projects involving fieldwork.

All DEL applications are submitted to NSF for review. Upon completion of the review process, the administration of awards is conducted separately by NEH or NSF.

Application materials are available on the National Science Foundation's website.

Program Statistics

In the last five competitions the Documenting Endangered Languages program, administered in partnership with the National Science Foundation, received an average of eighty applications per year. The program made an average of 38 awards per year, for a funding ratio of 48 percent.

The potential applicant pool for this program is limited, since the study of endangered languages is a highly specialized field. Applications have therefore tended to be very strong, which has historically led to high funding ratios.

The number of applications to an NEH grant program can vary widely from year to year, as can the funding ratio. Information about the average number of applications and awards in recent competitions is meant only to provide historical context for the current competition. Information on the number of applications and awards in individual competitions is available from


Program questions should be directed to NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at 202-606-8570 or Applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact NEH via Federal Relay (TTY users) at 800-877-8399.