Foundation for Endangered Languages

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2. Development of the Foundation

Announcing Our Second Round of Grants

A call for proposals was issued early in October 1998, and despite the restricted period in which the call was open, 30 applications were received in time for the closing date of 7 November. The FEL Committee, who in this act as the Selection Panel, decided that our finances allowed the award of £1,500 sterling in grants this year. Higher than last year by perhaps 50%, but nothing like as high as we need: our funds were oversubscribed by a factor of 8. Since subscriptions remain practically FEL’s only source of finance , this in itself is a strong argument for our members to keep themselves in good standing!

In future it will be our policy to encourage all applicants to become members of the Foundation, since this would add significantly to the funds available for award.

The criteria for proposals are not distinct from the categories of the application form, which is available at our web-site. It was a heart-rending task to make the selection, since the vast majority of proposals were satisfactory under all the criteria; but besides requiring excellence in all aspects, the Committee also hoped to select a list which was spread geographically and varied in terms of the kind of work to be undertaken.

In the end it proved possible to stretch the funds to offer material support to four projects.

G.Holton documentation of Tanacross (Alaska) £400
J.G.Lucich master-apprentice scheme for some younger people to acquire Mountain Maidu from academic source £200
A.Terrill dictionary compiling for Lavukaleve (Solomon Islands) £500
E.Benedicto community project to document lexicon of Tuahka (Nicaragua) £450

For those who were not so lucky, we can only urge applicants to re-direct their efforts to the Endangered Language Fund, whose call for proposals remains open.

FEL had promised to declare the results by the end of the year. The couple of weeks’ delay which has overrun this deadline is solely due to the fact that referees have in some cases been very slow in returning their statements. Strangely, the one respect in which almost all applicants were deficient was in disregarding the requirement to get references to us at the same time as their proposals!

FEL’s Second Conference: Outcome

This event, which took as its theme “What Rôle for the Specialist?”, was held in Edinburgh from 25 to 27 September 1998. It was attended by about 70 people, with representatives from every continent. Besides the speakers of the published programme (given in the last issue of Ogmios), one of the conference’s most affecting features was the Open Forum, where many more speakers could share their concerns. These included:

Ole Stig Andersen The Burial of Ubykh
Nigel Birch The EPSRC, Multilinguality And Endangered Languages
Joy Hendry Minority Languages in Scotland
Anda Hofstede The Modern South Arabian Languages
Jarmo Lainio, Birger Winsa Digitalization of Regional and Minority Languages: One Attempt to Reverse Language Shift in Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Wales
J. William Lewis The Politics of RLS on the Reservation: Writing Curriculum in Warm Springs, Oregon
Joseph Selwyn TeRito Maori in Recent Years
Doreen Mackman Yamaji Language Centre, W. Australia

After the conference, I sent out the following reflections on what we had learnt there.

"Damnosa hereditas"
Many aspects of the past reputation of linguists and anthropologists need to be overcome, especially repuations for arrogance, selfishness and inaccessibility.
Perhaps one advantage of wider and deeper education of traditional communities will be to give the means to form a judgement on how much Western societies may have changed, and the extent to which real help can be expected from them.

Social Role of the Specialist
Effective work by specialist outsiders usually require there to be a clear social role defined for them within the society. The closeness of this bond (and the obligations it will entail) will vary, but may amount to a family responsibility.
e.g. Chiwere (Furbee et al.), Tornedalen Finnish (Lainio & Winsa)

Vulnerable Position of Indigenous Teachers
There are special problems in certifying, i.e. conferring high enough status on, local or indigenous teachers of the endangered language. The problem may be with the teaching institutions of central or ex-colonial authorities, or it may be in getting the potential learners to respect the teachers.

Very often, such teachers have serious problems in obtaining adequate payment for their efforts.

Nevertheless, the work of such teachers is likely to be crucial; so authorities within the communities must be urged to concentrate on these problems.
e.g. Naskapi (Jancewicz et al.), Mocovi (Grondona), Halkomelem (Gerdts), Warm Springs, Oregon (Lewis)

Religion and Language
Traditional religious links and practices may be important strongholds of language survival, and motives for revival.
It will tend to be particularly difficult for oursider specialists to take part in this aspect of language use.
e.g. Mocovi (Grondona), Halkomelem (Gerdts)

The Two-Edged Sword of Education
Evidently this is a threat to traditional culture and language by bringing foreign elements to the explicit attention of the pupils; however, educated people are more likely to resist unwanted intrusions from outsiders, and build confidence in their own traditions.
There is a need, therefore, for education programmes to be formulated with clear reference to, and respect for, local culture.
e.g. Teribe (Quesada), Mohawk (MacDougall), Mocovi (Grondona), Forest Nenets (Salminen)
An international organization (as FEL) may help in negotations with local administrations or national governments, and indeed international programmes. e.g. Mocovi (Grondona), Forest Nenets (Salminen)

Influence of an International Organization
An international organization (as FEL) may also serve as a useful source of pressure on local administrations when it comes to persuading them to help with language revitalization policies.
e.g. Mocovi (Grondona), Halkomelem (Gerdts)

Where Weakness is a Strength
There are situations where the isolation of local and traditional communities can be a source of strength.
e.g. Forest Nenets (Salminen) - unaffected by collapse of the rouble; Teribe (Quesada) - isolation has aided survival, but unconsciously

Rising to Challenges
Great threats can give rise to exceptional achievements.
e.g. Naskapi (Jancewicz et al.): the prospect of hydro-elecric developments motivated agitation which led to explicit settlment of land claims.

Help vs Cooperation
The main need is not for explicit help from outsiders, but for channels of cooperation to be opened up. On the one hand, this means that community members must be alerted to their own responsibility in preserving and furthering their own traditions. On the other, they need to to shown the widespread nature of the struggle: they are not alone, and inspiration and encouragement can come from many quarters.
e.g. Valiquette, Rhydwen, Yamamoto; Maori (TeRito)

This situation is somewhat different for the speakers of minority languages in Europe, since they are often at a point where explicit confrontation with national governments (or international organziations) may be necessary in order to guarantee their rights. Nevertheless, the value of international solidarity and cooperation remains. e.g. Slovenian (Petek), Flemish (Hardie)

The main substantive comment received came from Doug Whalen, President of the Endangered Language Fund. (I have added the emphasis to one crucial sentence.)

Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 15:49:46 -0500
From: whalen(at)

Thanks for the thoughts based on your conference, which I wish I could have attended. I think that all of your considerations are worthwhile.

My own thinking about my organization, the Endangered Language Fund, is that we will continue to fund those projects that accomodate to the need for linguistic input along with the cooperation of the native community. Those (many) cases where either aspect is lacking will simply not register. Since we cannot at present fund all of the excellent projects within these constraints, it seems that we have enough to do. Since our efforts must always fall short (languages will die no matter what we do), I feel that coherent limits are useful. It is pleasing to me that the natural tendency for different groups to attend to different aspects of the problems is apparent in your notes. I feel that our relatively uncoordinated efforts are, so far, still in tune.

As always, best of luck, Doug DhW

Discussions are now under way on the publication of the Proceedings. However, the volume (+ supplement) as available at the Conference itself is still available for purchase ((at) 12 pounds sterling, including postage and packing).

FEL Executive Committee Meeting, University of Edinburgh Pollock Halls, 27 September 98, 2pm

(Minutes taken by Heather King in the absence of a secretary.)

Present: Nick Ostler, Margaret Allan, Heather King, Alasdair MacCaluim, Ole Stig Andersen (items 1-4), Mari Rhydwen (item 4), Tapani Salminen (items 5-10)

1. Appointment of Officers.
The following existing officers were confirmed for a further term:

Nick Ostler President
Margaret Allen Treasurer
Chris Moseley Liaison Officer & Grants Officer

Nominated committee members:
John Clews (York)
Mahendra Verma (York)
Heather King (Scotland)
Ole Stig Andersen (Denmark)
Alasdair MacCaluim (Scotland)
Rod Jones (Cardiff)
Nigel Birch (Swindon)
Davyth Hicks (Scotland/Cornwall)

Constitution needs to be amended to allow a greater number of committee members. Nick will send a copy of the constitution to all members (existing and potential) of the Committee, with a proposal for amendment. *ACTION Nick

It was proposed by Nick that those present at this meeting act as a de facto committee.

Margaret declared herself to be overloaded by the duties of Treasurer, Membership Secretary, and Conference Organiser. Nick suggested that Margaret propose a way to split the duties of Treasurer and Membership Secretary. Margaret will look for someone in York to take over the duties of Membership Secretary. *ACTION Margaret

2. Remuneration of Secretary.
One Committee member had volunteered for the position of Secretary but had advised that he would need to be remunerated. Margaret advised that the FEL did not have sufficient funds to pay its officers.

Nick declared that the matter of finding someone to take on the duties of secretary could be done through correspondence. *ACTION Nick

3. Minutes of last meeting (Oxford, June 5 1998).
Signed by chairman.

4. Fund raising and publicity.
Nick called for suggestions for raising funds for FEL grants.

Mari suggested that she could get sponsors for her boat trip.
Mari suggested a scheme whereby a number of people/organisations could sponsor work on a language and would receive progress reports, much the same way of that with child sponsorship. Nick expressed concerns about getting enough money to make it work.
*ACTION Mari, to send further details of her scheme to FEL

Nick suggested that FEL approach organisations with money to distribute to good causes, such as the Toyota Foundation. A list of such organisations would need to be compiled and volunteers found to approach them.




Ole suggested that FEL must get more human interest stories in the mass media to raise awareness and thus funds. Ole also suggested that we could have an endangered language of the year to raise awareness. Nick expressed concerns that making a community into a celebrity would limit their freedom.

Nick recalled David Cheezem's idea (in 1996) of having an International Endangered Languages Day. It had attracted support all over the world, but ultimately had been left aside. According to David Cheezem (writing on EL List), this had been because individual language communities had seen it as something of a distraction from their real activities. Alasdair drew the meeting's attention to the 25th anniversary of the death of the last Manx speaker (Ned Maddrell) next September. He suggested the FEL could do something with this to raise awareness.

*ACTION Alasdair - formulate plan to mark Anniversary of Maddrell's death, perhaps in cooperation with Celtic League or others.

Nick noted that Ogmios includes an obituary section for languages, but has found it hard to get appropriate information regularly.

Ole suggested a web page with a personalised list of last speakers of languages. This would include photos of the speakers, etc. but would only be posted with the permission of each speaker. This would be a resource for people wanting to write stories on endangered languages.

Ole will prepare details (including feasibility, possible cost) of making a magazine directed to the public. People could subscribe so that they feel they are at least contributing something towards language maintenance - in much the same way that the Greenpeace magazine functions.


Alasdair suggested developing a small article spelling out the functions and aims of FEL for other organisations to include in their newsletters, etc.

Ole suggested that FEL make a database of our own articles on endangered languages which could be sent to magazines/newsletters of relevant organisations - he knows of lists of these organisations on the web.

*ACTION Ole (to send details of such lists to Nick)

5. Grants.

Nick will issue call for grant applications to members by email. The deadline for applications will be October 31 1998.


Nick informed the meeting that four grant proposals have already been received by FEL. All members of the Committee will be sent copies of the grant applications by mid-November to allow time to read them before the grant allocations is discussed and decided at the next meeting.

Nick informed the meeting that there was one grantee from the last round who had not submitted a report yet. Heather offered to contact the grantee and inform him that he needed to submit his report by October 31 1998. Heather suggested that in future FEL retain 10% of the value of each grant until a report from the grantee has been received. This was agreed by the meeting.

*ACTION Chris Moseley to update rules of procedure for grant allocation.

It was decided that when calls for the next round of grants go out it will include the total amount that FEL expects to have available to allocate. This allows FEL flexibility in the amount it allocates to each grantee and does not commit FEL to an absolute amount before it knows how much it will have to distribute, whilst giving the applicants a general idea of the amount they could aim for.

*ACTION Margaret, to inform Nick (and Chris) of such total amount as soon as it is known.

7. Topics for future discussion.
Deferred to next meeting.

8. Web page and Ogmios.
Nick and Alasdair will discuss ways to improve appearance of Ogmios. *ACTION Nick, Alasdair

Heather volunteered to take over the copying and mailing out of Ogmios. Nick will send her a camera-ready version from which she will have 200 copies made. Margaret will send Heather a cheque for £200 for copying and a cheque for £80 for postage as soon as the camera-ready version is ready.

9. Next conference.
Cardiff and Ireland have been suggested for a venue for the conference next year. Nick will elicit further suggestions from the members.

Nick will organise the publication of the proceedings of the 1998 conference. *ACTION Nick, Alasdair

10. Next meeting.
2pm, Saturday November 28 1998 at Nick's house in Bath (as below).

FEL Executive Committee Meeting, Batheaston Villa, 28 November 98, 2pm

Present: Nick Ostler, Chris Moseley, Margaret Allen, Nigel Birch, Alasdair MacCaluim, Heather King
Apologies: Mahendra Verma, John Clews, Davyth Hicks, Ole Stig Andersen
These minutes were taken by Heather.

0. Appointment of Secretary
*ACTION: Nick to find person willing

1. Minutes of last meeting
Alasdair corrected the date of the anniversary of Ned Maddrell’s death from September to December.
The Minutes were passed and signed by the President, and seconded by Alasdair.

2. Matters arising
None, beyond the items below.

3. Financial matters
Treasurer’s report submitted by Margaret.
Passed: Nick Seconded: Chris
Nick pointed out the methods for paying subscription:
- credit card, bank order, cheque in sterling, cash in person (or cheques in American dollars made out to Nick if necessary)

Travel expenses to meeting to be paid to committee £169.82
Amount to be given away as grants £1500
Necessary to retain £500 to cover next issue of Ogmios and ongoing costs.

4. Membership matters
Membership Secretary’s report submitted.
Passed: Nick Seconded: Nigel
46 members have not paid their latest subscription. 5 on the list have never paid. Nigel suggested that a note go out to members with outstanding subscriptions pointing out that we only had £1500 to give out as grants because members had not paid up on time despite reminders. The note would point out that as a person concerned about language maintenance the unpaid member would understand the effect of having limited funds and would want to contribute by paying up. Email to those with email and letters to those who do not. *ACTION: Nick

The issue of a replacement membership secretary was carried over. Nick suggested Mukul Saxena in York as a possibility.

5. Fund raising
Nick has compiled a list of UK-based foundations whose published stance suggest they might favour FEL with grants. Threy are mainly in the area of support for cultures.

He mentioned that it would be possible to use the list of unfunded proposals to give content to DEL’s approach to them; or to single out particular projects and approach a foundation with a definite proposal.

*ACTION: Nick to write to all of the foundations.

6. Grants
After deliberation of all the opinions of the committee members on the applications for grants, the following allocations (in pounds sterling) were decided:

£400 Holton
£200 Lucich (funding does not include computer)
£500 Terrill
£450 Benedicto (funding for 3 language workers, not 4)

It was therefore decided to go £50 over the £1500 limit.
Nick thanked Chris for all his hard work on the grants.
*ACTION: Chris to approach as soon as possible the referees of the successful applicants who have not yet submitted a reference.

Nick asked committee to email him with any suggestions of improvements to the application form.

It was decided that in future a membership form will be sent out with each application form for grants. Membership will not be a condition of applying for a grant but applicants will be strongly encouraged because this is what keeps FEL going.

7. Publications
York conference proceedings are still in process - some time before news is expected.

Edinburgh conference proceedings are being considered by editors of Multilingual Matters - waiting for response.

8. Next conference
Possible venues: Cardiff, Maynooth

Chris suggested the topic of Language and Education. which met with general agreement.

Conference subcommittee to be set up - Nick and Chris volunteered.

*ACTION: Nick to consult members for other volunteers.

Nigel suggested two conference fee scales - one for members and one for non-members. The non-members fee would amount to more than the members fee and members subscription combined to encourage delegates to become members.

9. Campaigns
No advantage has come of Chris’ letter to Milosovic re the rights of Albanian speakers - the war has progressively worsened.

Alasdair is planning to write an article for a Gaelic newspaper as a representative of FEL in co-operation with the Manx Language Officer to commemorate the 25th anniversary death of Ned Maddrell.

10. Changes to constitution
The constitution is to be changed to allow for an increased maximum number in committee, and some modifications to the rules for grants. Andrew Woodfield has official constitution, so this issue had to be deferred.

11. Ogmios
Alasdair said he that Ogmios format was probably best to stay as it is to keep cost down.

12. Website
Only Andrew has access to the FEL website. The committee needs to arrange to get more control over it.

13. Next meeting
Sat 27th March, 2 pm Chris’s house in Nettlebed. *ACTION: Chris - to tell us all how to get there.

14. Other business
Mark Donohue’s grant report and three booklets arrived.