Illustrating Literacy Materials for Endangered Languages: Ethical Dilemmas and Artistic Trials


Published: 2021-11-26

Page: 299-318

Joan Marie Kelly *

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Alexander R. Coupe

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

František Kratochvíl

Palacký University, Olomouc, Czechia.

Lim Qixuan

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Ng Xiao Yan

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Ong Han Yu

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Amos Teo

University of Oregon, USA.

Lauren Gawne

La Trobe University, Australia.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


The creation and dissemination of literacy materials supports the vitality of vulnerable languages and is essential to the survival of more than half of the world’s languages that lack writing systems and literacy materials entirely. This paper evaluates an interdisciplinary collaborative project titled Visualizing Languages, focusing on four communities in South and Southeast Asia for whom literacy materials were developed within a university art educational program. The project involved a team of linguists, student illustrators, an artist mentor, and community members. This interdisciplinary team collaborated with native speakers to create bilingual children’s books representing important traditional narratives, with each story accompanied by rich illustrations incorporating the cultural heritage of the community. Our aim here is to describe and evaluate the workflow, in the hope that it might serve as a model for other teams considering a similar approach to preserving intangible cultural heritage.

Keywords: Language documentation, literacy materials, sustaining languages, endangered languages

How to Cite

Kelly, J. M., Coupe, A. R., Kratochvíl, F., Qixuan, L., Yan, N. X., Yu, O. H., Teo, A., & Gawne, L. (2021). Illustrating Literacy Materials for Endangered Languages: Ethical Dilemmas and Artistic Trials. Asian Journal of Sociological Research, 4(1), 299–318. Retrieved from


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