Endangered languages documentation project

This project is digitising and archiving historical audio and video recordings and manuscripts from Ranongga, Solomon Islands.

John Poa Lokapitu (holding recorder) and Kenneth Roga interviewing Hatakiko Muma and Zeberti Toribule at the Kulu Language Institute, Ranongga, 6 Sept 2019
John Poa Lokapitu (holding recorder) and Kenneth Roga interviewing Hatakiko Muma and Zeberti Toribule at the Kulu Language Institute, Ranongga, 6 Sept 2019


This project (funded by a Legacy Materials Grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London) is undertaken in partnership with a remarkable grassroots language school, the Kulu Language Institute, where thousands of Ranonggans have learned to read, write, and analyse their own languages. Students and teachers at the Kulu Language Institute are eager to draw on historical material for understanding older forms of their languages, and they are enthusiastic about continuing to add to a digital archive of their languages. They are involved in the typing, transcription, and analysis of historical materials.

This project fits into a larger set of activities focused on expanding the capacity of Solomon Islands to study and document their own languages, including an August 2019 workshop on Solomon Islands languages supported by University of Melbourne and the Australian Research Council funded Centre of Excellence in the Dynamics of Language.


Three collections of materials from Ranongga will be digitised and archived:

  • audio recordings of traditional stories made in 1986 and 1992 by Kenneth Roga and Laurence Stubbs (30 hours)
  • audio-visual recordings made between 1998-2001 by Debra McDougall (100 hours)
  • texts written since 2000 by students of vernacular literacy and grammar (hundreds of texts)

Lectures, blogs and podcasts

Scholary publications

  • McDougall D. and Zobule, A. G. 2021 (forthcoming). ‘All Read Well: Schooling on Solid Ground in a Solomon Islands Language Movement,’ in The Contemporary Pacific 33 (2)
  • McDougall, D. 2020. ‘Gendered ambition and disappointment: Women and men in a vernacular language education movement in Melanesia,’ in Bainton, Nick; Alexyeff, Kalissa and Cox, John (eds.,). Unequal Lives: Gender, Race and Class in the Western Pacific. Australian National University Press
  • McDougall, Debra. 2012. ‘Stealing foreign words, recovering local treasures: Bible translation and vernacular literacy on Ranongga (Solomon Islands),’ in The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23 (3), pp. 318-339


The materials contribute to the documentation of two small Austronesian languages and further our understanding of intergenerational linguistic change They will be used in the educational initiatives of a thriving local language movement

The project aims to build local capacity in language and cultural documentation and analysis.

Project details


Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, SOAS University of London

Research partners

Kulu Language Institute, Solomon Islands

Project team

Dr Debra McDougall, University of Melbourne
Dr Alpheaus Graham Zobule, Kulu Language Institute of Ranongga, Islands Bible Ministries of Solomon Islands


Dr Debra McDougall