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Joel Sherzer Excellence Endowment for the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (Ailla)

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Dr. Joel Sherzer founded the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) in 2000 as a collaborative project between anthropology, linguistics, and the University Libraries, working with Anthony C. Woodbury and Mark McFarland. The archive has grown into one of the leading digital repositories for endangered languages in the world. It is a major resource for researchers, educators, and speakers of indigenous languages.

Dr. Joel Sherzer
Dr. Joel Sherzer

AILLA holds more than 2,500 multimedia resources for some 222 languages from 24 countries. The collection includes a wide range of genres, such as word lists, myths, chants, songs, instrumental music, multistage ceremonial events, elicitations of spatial concepts, ethnobotanical information, and narratives of all kinds.

Joel has preserved the oral literatures of indigenous peoples since he first began working with the Kunas of Panama in 1968. Joel began teaching at The University of Texas at Austin in 1969 and has trained generations of students in a wide variety of fields including social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, folklore, and linguistics. His students have worked in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and all across the Americas in indigenous and immigrant communities.

The core of Joel’s own work — and what he passes on to his students — has been a discourse-centered approach to the study of language in society. His students’ work, like his own, takes this perspective in grappling with the diffusion of linguistic features and ways of speaking, the nature of speech play and verbal art, the linguistic representation and analysis of naturally occurring speech of all kinds, and the documentation and archiving of speech.

A. Richard Diebold, Jr., Ph.D.; Miss E. Helen Sorensen; various donors; and Joel’s wife Dina M. Sherzer, Ph.D.; endowed the Joel Sherzer Excellence Endowment for the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) in honor of Dr. Joel Sherzer to support the project he founded.

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