Directors & Coordinators

ELA is led by a small team of experienced linguists and language activists based in New York City.

Founding Co-Director

Daniel Kaufman co-founded ELA with the goal of bringing together linguists with immigrant and Indigenous communities in NYC who speak endangered languages. Born and raised in Sapokanikan (Greenwich Village), he obtained his BA in linguistics from the University of the Philippines and his PhD in linguistics from Cornell University in 2010 with a specialization in the Austronesian languages of island Southeast Asia. He joined Queens College in 2015, where he is Associate Professor, and co-edits Oceanic Linguistics, a journal devoted to the study of the indigenous languages of the Oceanic region and Island Southeast Asia.


Ross Perlin is a linguist, writer, and translator focused on exploring and supporting linguistic diversity. He has been ELA’s Co-Director since 2013, managing research projects on mapmaking, documentation, policy, and public programming for urban linguistic diversity. Himalayan languages are a focus — for his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Bern, Ross created a trilingual dictionary, a corpus of recordings, and a descriptive grammar of Trung, an endangered language of southwest China, based on several years of fieldwork. He has also written on language, culture, and politics for The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper’s, and elsewhere, and published a book on unpaid work and youth economics (Intern Nation). He also teaches linguistics at Columbia.

Project Coordinators

Jackeline Alvarez, a member of the New York Mixtec diaspora who has worked closely with ELA on its Indigenous languages project. Jackeline worked with ELA to conduct long form interviews on language transmission and access with over 30 Indigenous Mexican and Guatemalan families in East Harlem. She completed her BA in Spanish and Latin American Literature at Hunter College.

thelma carrillo, coordinator of ELA’s health initiatives, is a researcher and well-recognized community advocate for Indigenous people in New York City and beyond. She has worked for seven years at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with a focus on health equity and linguistic justice and works with ELA on a range of language-related projects around well-being. She is a Mexican-American who grew up partly in El Paso and has roots in the Zapotec people of Oaxaca.

Habib Borjian has carried out fieldwork and published on numerous languages of the Iranic language family from the Middle East and Central Asia, including those spoken in New York. He has served as Senior Assistant Editor of Encyclopaedia Iranica, to which he is a regular contributor, and Associate Editor of Journal Persianate Studies. Borjian is also a regional director for the Middle East at Endangered Languages Catalogue, a joint project of the Eastern Michigan University and University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Nawang T. Gurung, coordinator of ELA’s Himalayan languages project, is an independent researcher, translator and tour specialist originally from the Himalayan region of Mustang in Nepal and now based in New York City. In addition to Nawang’s work at ELA, he is also founder and director of the non-profit Yulha Fund and serves on the advisory council of Rubin Museum. He has worked as a translator and assistant for National Geographic and as Development Director for the New York Tibetan Service Center (NYTSC). Among his presentations and publications is the book “Dogyab: Rituel Tibetain de Conjuration du Mal” (in French), a study of Bön religion in Nepal which he co-authored.

Husniya Khujamyorova, coordinator of ELA’s Pamiri languages project, earned her BA in Linguistics from the State Institute of Languages in Dushanbe, and a Masters of Science in Education, specializing in Early Childhood Development, from CUNY-Brooklyn College. She speaks Wakhi (her native language) as well as Shughni, Tajik, Persian, Kyrgyz, Russian, and English. She has led ELA’s research on Pamiri languages for the last 10 years, including fieldwork in New York, Tajikistan, and China as well as projects involving lullabies and storybooks for children.