Members of the scientific community are faced with two urgent situations: the number of languages in the world is rapidly diminishing while the number of initiatives to digitize language data is rapidly multiplying. The latter might seem to be an unalloyed good in the face of the former, but there are two ways things may go wrong without adequate collaboration among archivists, field linguists, and language engineers. First, a common standard for the digitization of linguistic data may never be agreed upon; and the resulting variation in archiving practices and language representation would seriously inhibit data access, searching, and cross-linguistic comparison. Second, standards may be set without guidance from descriptive linguists, the people who best know the range of structural possibilities in human language. If linguistic archives are to offer the widest possible access to the data and provide it in a maximally useful form, consensus must be reached about certain aspects of archive infrastructure.

The primary goal of E-MELD is to promote this consensus.