Susan Smythe Kung

Susan Smythe Kung

Documentary Linguist

Language Archivist

Welcome to My Website

I am a documentary linguist dedicated to archiving endangered languages. I have a PhD from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. I always wanted to be a librarian, and I worked in the UT Linguistics Department’s Archibald A. Hill’s library while I was a graduate student. However, I also wanted to do work that would contribute to the preservation of the world’s endangered languages. I found the perfect marriage of these two passions at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), where I am the the Archives Manager. In addition to helping language documenters from all over the world to add their language data to AILLA, I also work to educate language documenters on the ins and outs of the archival side of the work. I use this website to post news about my upcoming workshops and presentations and to help publicize training materials that I have created.

Language Documentation

I have worked on Huehuetla Tepehua, a Totonac-Tepehua language spoken in Huehuetla, Hidalgo, Mexico, since 1999.  The resulting body of work comes from 4 major projects:

  1. Lexical research as part of the Project for the Documentation of the Languages of MesoAmerica (Terrence Kaufman & John Justeson, Directors) in 1999, 2000 & 2005.
  2. Language documentation and grammatical and lexical research done during the academic year 2000-2001, funded by a Fulbright García-Robles fellowship to Mexico and an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant.
  3. Spatial language and cognition research as part of MesoSpace (Juegen Bohnemeyer, Principal Investigator) in 2008 & 2011.
  4. Olfaction research done with Carolyn O’Meara as part of the Meaning, Culture, Cognition project (Asifa Majid, Principal Investigator) in 2014. This research was mentioned in the New York Times article What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About The Mysteries of Smell? (Jan. 28, 2021).

All of the data that I collected are archived at AILLA in 2 collections:

Language Archiving

I am really excited to share the launch on September 1, 2020, of the open educational resource (OER) Archiving for the Future: Simple Steps for Archiving Language Documentation Collections, that I co-created and co-authored with Ryan Sullivant, Elena Pojman, and Alicia Niwagaba. The free online course is intended to guide people of all backgrounds through the process of preparing digital language materials and data for deposit into any digital repository for long-term preservation and accessibility. Take the free course at

Since 2012, my position at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) has allowed me to be internationally engaged in the formulation of best practices for organizing collections of language documentation data for deposit into endangered language archives and for citing archived language data.

I have been on the board of the Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network (DELAMAN) since 2012, where I have served as President (2016-2019) and Award Committee Chair (2020-present).

Please see my CV for information on my grants, publications, presentations, and other products.

Photo credits:

This website, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under CC BY 4.0 International.