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RELISH project received joint DFG/NEH funding

The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have recently approved a German-American project in which MPI's technical group will participate. The RELISH project - rendering endangered languages lexicons interoperable through standards harmonisation - will match key European and American digital standards for lexicons. Until now, the divergence of these lexicons has impeded international collaboration on language technology for resource creation and analysis, as well as web services for archive access.


When a lexicon constitutes the only record of a dying language, it can contribute unique linguistic and cultural information to our store of scientific knowledge. Making it interoperable with other lexical data becomes a critical research priority. However, despite the support accorded to initiatives to develop digital standards for language documentation within both the US and Germany, there still exist major barriers to lexicon interoperability. The most significant barrier is that standards-setting bodies have arrived at different standards for format and markup on the two sides of the Atlantic.

Project Aims

The project will have significant benefits for the user community and the organisations which support their research. Language data are central to a large scientific community, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, geneticists,  sociologists, and linguists. Ensuring the interoperability of any individual lexicon will exponentially increase its potential scientific contribution. Moreover, the harmonisation of standards at this early juncture will streamline the future development of software tools and web services deployed in lexical research. Accordingly, this project will add value to other projects already funded with public monies in Europe (e.g., LIRICS, CLARIN) and the US (E-MELD, the Data-Driven Ontology Project, the GOLD Community Project, LEGO); and it will contribute to the ongoing effort of developers and funding agencies to make the most efficient use of scarce resources.

Moreover, as a collaboration between two of the organisations that have been instrumental in promoting both endangered languages documentation and standards development in Europe and the US, this project will provide impetus for other standards harmonisation efforts, as well as offer the scientific research community flexible and integrated access to important new digital materials.

For more information, please contact Dr Claus Zinn (

About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.



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