FEL Executive Committee member Nicholas Ostler

Today we introduce another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Nicholas Ostler

I was born and bred in the south-east of England, in the county of Kent (which happens to be oldest county name in the country), and currently live in Hungerford, Berkshire, with my wife Jane Dunn Ostler and family. I studied Greek and Latin, and then philosophy and economics at Oxford University, followed by a PhD in theoretical linguistics (on noun cases, verb voices and classical Sanskrit) at MIT in 1979.

My main career activity has been as a consultant on language technologies (including machine translation), often reporting to the UK Department of Trade and Industry, and the European Union, and also occasionally undertaking fact-finding visits to Japan, India and the USA. I am currently on the Integration Panel (IP) of the Internet Corporation for Assignment of Names and Numbers (ICANN), advising on general use of Unicode characters in internet labels. I have also written four books on language history (Empires of the Word: a language history of the world, Ad Infinitum: a biography of Latin, The Last Lingua Franca: English until the return of Babel, Passwords to Paradise: how languages have reinvented world religions) and am currently working on Sanskrit Ocean, emphasizing the language’s connections between India and South-east Asia.

For family reasons, I have regularly visited Colombia, South America, since the 1990s and taken the opportunity to become an expert on its main pre-Hispanic language, Chibcha, spoken by the Muisca or Muysca. Besides the technical interest in recognizing long-lost grammatical rules, it has been fascinating too for me to watch the first stirrings of revival in the language community (Chibcha ceased to be spoken on a daily basis in the 18th century).

I have been Chairman of FEL since Chris Moseley, Andrew Woodfield (Bristol University), and I founded it as a charity in 1996, having been stimulated by Martin Krauss’s alarm call about language endangerment. I have taken part in almost all the FEL conferences held over the past 24 years, and edited many of our Proceedings volumes.

FEL Executive Committee member Mujahid Torwali

Today’s blog introduces another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Mujahid Torwali

I live in Bahrain Swat, a tourist resort in the extreme north of Pakistan. I did my Masters in International Relations and History at the University of Malakand from 2012 to 2015, and from 2011-19 I was engaged as a language researcher with Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a civil society organization in Bahrain Swat. I undertook five weeks of teacher training at the University of Massachusetts in June 2018, and now I am working as a government school teacher in the Torwali belt of Swat.

I am interested in the indigenous language and culture of the Torwali community, who speak a Dardic language belonging to the Indo-Iranian family. Since 2011 I have been writing blogs, letters, and articles about various situations in Pakistan, along with news stories of the indigenous cultures and languages of northern Pakistan in local and national newspapers. I co-organised the FEL XXIII conference in December 2019 at the University of Sydney with FEL Executive Committee member Jaki Troy, for whom I currently work as a research assistant/

FEL Executive Committee member Fazal Hadi

In this blog post, we introduce another member of the FEL executive committee.

Fazal Hadi

I live in the north of Pakistan which is a home of numerous endangered indigenous languages. I am a language activist and development professional. I did my Master’s in business administration and MS in Management Sciences. For the last twelve years I have worked on different positions, i.e. Finance Manager, Program Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, and field researcher in various humanitarian organizations, but for the last eight years I have been connected with a number of organizations working for revival and documentation, preservation and promotion of endangered indigenous languages in north Pakistan. Currently, I am working on the preservation and documentation of the Ushojo language, developing its orthography, documenting its history and folk tales, and creating materials for mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE). This work is being done in collaboration with community members and speakers.

I am driven by the same mission as FEL for the preservation of endangered languages. The aim of my activism is to influence government policymakers to officially recognize the indigenous languages of this region and make MTB-MLE a part of the national curriculum.

FEL Executive Committee member Sebastian Drude

In today’s blog post, we introduce another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Sebastian Drude

Since March 2019 I have lived in Belém, Brazil, where I work as an associated researcher at the Linguistics Division of the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, holding a senior post-doctoral research-grant from the Brazilian government. This is my second time here: I was previously a guest researcher with the Museu Goeldi from 1997 to 2011, when I studied and documented the Aweti language in Mato Grosso. The Aweti live in the Upper Xingu cultural area together with nine other ethnic groups speaking six languages of different families. Aweti is a Tupian language and had about 90 speakers when I initiated research in 1998; today they are more than 200. These worrying numbers alone were reason enough for me to get interested in language endangerment, and engaging in the new field of language documentation.

As a German documentary-anthropological linguist I am interested in linguistic diversity, and also in language technology. I obtained a Dr. Phil degree at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2002 while doing fieldwork and language documentation within the DOBES programme (2000–2006). From 2008 to 2011 I held a Dilthey-Fellowship developing a digital grammar of Aweti at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, where I continue to be affiliated as Privatdozent. From November 2011, I was Scientific Coordinator and Head of The Language Archive, Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics. Then, in 2015-2016, I was General Coordinator in the European Language research infrastructure CLARIN ERIC, followed by two years as Director of the Vigdís International Centre, University of Iceland.

I believe that FEL is an important institution with a huge potential to raise interest in endangered languages and support their study. It was a pleasure to me to host the 2018 FEL conference in Reykjavík, Iceland, and to take a role in FEL publications, co-editing the first digital proceedings volume, published by EL Publishing.

FEL Executive Committee member Peter Austin

In today’s post, we introduce another Executive Committee member.

Peter K. Austin

I live in the UK where I am Emeritus Professor in Field Linguistics at SOAS, University of London, and Visiting Researcher at Oxford University. Previously, I was Foundation Chair in Linguistics at University of Melbourne (1996-2001) and Marit Rausing Chair in Field Linguistics at SOAS (2002-2018).

I have been working with speakers of highly endangered Australian Aboriginal languages for 48 years in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia (documenting 12 languages). I have published books, articles, dictionaries, and websites (including the first fully hypertext bilingual dictionary (of Gamilaraay), co-authored with FEL EC member David Nathan).

Since 2013 I have been collaborating with the Dieri Aboriginal Corporation, running community-based workshops and preparing materials for linguistic and cultural revival, described on the Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha blog. Since 2018 I have been working with the Yinggarda, Bayungu and Thalanyji communities to create bilingual dictionaries and learning materials for linguistic and cultural revival. I am collaborating with the Baiyungu Aboriginal Corporation and the WA Parks and Wildlife Service on linguistic and cultural aspects of a joint management plan for the Nyinggulu (Ningaloo) Marine Park.

I established the journal Language Documentation and Description in 2003 and am co-founding editor of the free open access platform EL Publishing. In 2018 we worked with FEL to publish its first online Conference Proceedings.

I have collaborated on summer schools and training courses for endangered languages documentation, description and revitalisation, including working with minority language speakers, in UK, Sweden, Italy, Germany, France, Estonia, Poland, Argentina, USA, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and India. In 2020 I will participate in events in Germany, Italy, Australia, and India. I have given numerous conference talks, public lectures, and outreach events advocating for endangered languages and their speakers, and published a book called 1,000 Languages on language diversity for a general audience (translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Polish, Estonian, Icelandic, Japanese, Chinese). I am currently co-editor of the FEL blog and the FEL Facebook page.

FEL Executive Committee member Ichchha Purna Rai

This post introduces another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Ichchha Purna Rai

I live in Nepal and have been working since 2009 as a lecturer at Dhankuta Multiple Campus, which is affiliated with Tribhuvan University. I am currently President of Tribhuvan University Teachers’ Association, Dhankuta Multiple Campus Unit Committee (2019-2022). Before teaching at Tribhuvan University, I worked as a research assistant on the Chintang Puma Documentation Project (CPDP), which was funded from 2004 to 2009 by the Volkswagen Foundation in its DoBeS programme. After that project, my interest began in endangered languages documentation, and I started to document and analyse endangered languages of Nepal. I have involved in documentation of five endangered Kiranti languages of Nepal so far, namely Chhintang, Chhulung, Belhare, the Mugali variety of Yakkha, and Wambule. On the basis of this documentation and analysis, I have published articles in national and international journals, and in 2018 I published a book entitled Chhintang Mundum Text: Interpretation and Translation into English with Lambert Academic Publishing.

My main interests are endangered languages documentation, oral literature, multilingualism, and critical pedagogy.

FEL Executive Committee member Chris Moseley

In today’s post, we introduce another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Chris Moseley

My interest in endangered languages began in my native Australia, but formal involvement with language minorities began with my fieldwork on the Livonian language of Latvia (1987-1993). Simultaneously I worked as co-editor of the Routledge Atlas of the World’s Languages, now in its third edition (in preparation). Since 2008 I have been editor of the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, soon to become the World Atlas of Languages.

I work as Teaching Fellow in Estonian language at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. I also teach Latvian there. Apart from that I work as a freelance translator. On the Executive Committee of FEL I have served as Treasurer, later as editor of the Ogmios newsletter, and most recently as the Advocacy and Campaigns Officer. Over the years I have helped in the preparation of annual conferences, and assessing applications for grants. I believe that our Foundation has an irreplaceable and valuable role to play, even on a relatively modest scale, in protecting the world’s language diversity.

FEL Executive Committee member Eda Derhemi

In this blog post, we introduce another member of the FEL executive committee.

Eda Derhemi

I live in Champaign, Illinois, USA and was born in Albania, where I completed my undergraduate education and then worked for five years at the University of Tirana. After this, I lived for five years in Sicily, and then completed my graduate studies in linguistics and communications at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where I now teach linguistics and Italian language in the Department of French and Italian.

I first encountered linguistic endangerment in practical terms, and then theoretically, during my years in Sicily, and have often visited two strongholds of the endangered Arbëresh language (related to Albanian), Piana degli Albanesi and Contessa Entellina. I have conducted sociolinguistic studies on Arbëresh (in 50 villages) that are not just descriptive accounts of different linguistic systems of the language, but are led by a theoretical framework of language endangerment guided by the pioneering studies of Fishman and Dorian. In the last five years I have undertaken fieldwork on Arvanitika, another Albanian language spoken throughout Greece, working mostly in Attika, Thives, Levadia and Hydra. Arvanitika is a severely endangered language; its speakers and socio-political conditions show traits that are completely opposite to those of Arbëresh.

I am also active in Albanian public communication as a writer, essayist, and literary critic, and have recently translated poetry and prose, including Miele sul coltello by Romeo Çollaku (co-translated from Albanian to Italian with Francesco Ferrari). I have served as a FEL executive committee member since 2018, and recently agreed to contribute regularly to the Ogmios newsletter and assist Chris Moseley, the editor.

FEL Executive Committee member Muhammad Zaman Sagar

This post introduces another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Muhammad Zaman Sagar

I live in Islamabad, Pakistan, and work as a Senior Advocacy Officer for Forum of Language Initiatives (FLI) and Executive Director of the Gawri Community Development Programme (GCDP). I have been working on language development since 1992, and with FLI since 2004. I am a language and education activist, researcher, linguist, advocate, and mobilizer for the marginalized language communities of Pakistan. I have more than a dozen publications on language issues.

My expertise is also in the field of Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) and the use of the guide and tools for Planning the Future of Our Language (PFOL) developed by SIL International.

FEL Executive Committee member Joseph Osoba

In today’s post, we introduce another member of the FEL Executive Committee.

Joseph Babasola Osoba

I live in Nigeria and teach English Linguistics as an Associate Professor at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State. I taught at the Department of English, University of Lagos, Akoka from 1999 to 2016. I have also taught at the Elizade University, Ilara- Mokin as an Associate Professor and Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba- Akoko, Ondo State, as a Lecturer and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer. I have given a couple of lectures relating to language attitudes and preferences. For more information see here.

My current research relates to the causes of and solutions to language endangerment in Nigeria.  As a promoter of mother tongue education, I believe that indigenous languages can, when standardised, become sources of employment, commerce, and social and political advancement through their value. My slogan is: That our languages may not disappear.