Foundation for Endangered Languages

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6. Allied Societies and Activities

Request for Proposals, Endangered Language Fund

The Endangered Language Fund provides grants for language maintenance and linguistic field work. The work most likely to be funded is that which serves both the native community and the field of linguistics. Work which has immediate applicability to one group and more distant application to the other will also be considered. Publishing subventions are a low priority, although they will be considered. The language involved must be in danger of disappearing within a generation or two. Endangerment is a continuum, and the location on the continuum is one factor in our funding decisions. Eligible expenses include travel, tapes, films, consultant fees, etc. Grants are normally for one year periods, though extensions may be applied for. We expect grants in this round to be less than $2,000 in size.

There is no form, but the information requested below should be printed (on one side only) and FOUR COPIES sent to:

The Endangered Language Fund
Dept. of Linguistics
Yale University
P. O. Box 208236
New Haven, CT 06520-8236

The street address for express mail services is:
The Endangered Language Fund
Department of Linguistics
320 York Street
Yale University
New Haven, CT 06520

Applications must be mailed in. No e-mail or fax applications will be accepted. Please note that regular mail, especially from abroad, can take up to four weeks.

If you have any questions, please write to the same address or email to: elf(at)

The first page should contain:
Title of the project
Name of language and country in which it is spoken
Name of primary researcher
Address of primary researcher
(include phone and email if possible.)
Social security number (if US citizen)
Place and date of birth
Present position, education, and native language(s).
Previous experience and/or publications that are relevant.

Include the same information for collaborating researchers if any. This information may continue on the next page.

Beginning on a separate page, please provide a description of the project. This should normally take two pages or less, single spaced. Be detailed about the type of material that is to be collected and/or produced, and the value it will have to the native community (including relatives and descendants who do not speak the language) and to linguistic science. Give a brief description of the state of endangerment of the language in question.

On a separate page, prepare an itemized budget that lists expected costs for the project. Estimates are acceptable, but they must be realistic. Please translate the amounts into US dollars. List other sources of support you are currently receiving or expect to receive and other applications that relate to the current one.

Two letters of support are recommended, but not required. Note that these letters, if sent separately, must arrive on or before the deadline (April 20th, 1999) in order to be considered. If more than two letters are sent, only the first two received will be read.

A researcher can be primary researcher on only one proposal.

Applications must be received by April 20th, 1999. Decisions will be delivered by the end of May, 1999.

Receipt of application will be made by email if an email address is given. Otherwise, the applicant must include a self-addressed post-card in order to receive the acknowledgment.

Before receiving any funds, university-based applicants must show that they have met the requirements of their university's human subjects' committee. Tribal- or other-based applicants must provide equivalent assurance that proper protocols are being used.

If a grant is made and accepted, the recipient is required to provide the Endangered Language Fund with a short formal report of the project and to provide the Fund with copies of all publications resulting from materials obtained with the assistance of the grant.

FURTHER ENQUIRIES can be made to:
The Endangered Language Fund
Dept. of Linguistics, Yale University, P. O. Box 208236, New Haven, CT 06520-8236 USA Tel +1-203-432-2450, Fax +1-203-432-4087, elf(at)
1998 Annual Report of the LSA Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP)
Submitted by Anthony C. Woodbury, University of Texas, Austin, Chair. (The LSA is the Linguistic Society of America.)


Catherine Callaghan (OSU), Wallace L. Chafe (UCSB), Daniel Everett (U Pitt), Joseph Grimes (Cornell/SIL), Colette Grinevald (MRASH), Leanne Hinton (UCB), George Huttar (SIL), Alana Johns, (U Toronto), Peter Ladefoged (UCLA), Martha Ratliff (Wayne SU), Keren Rice (U Toronto), Anthony C. Woodbury (U TX Austin)


The CELP encourages the study and documentation of endangered languages and makes technical assistance available to language communities seeking to preserve their languages from extinction. The Committee encourages academic institutions to offer assistance and support to members of threatened language communities working to preserve their languages. It also encourages institutions to offer training and degree programs oriented to the compilation of dictionaries and grammars of threatened and poorly documented languages, as well as to the documentation and study of naturally-occurring speech of all kinds in threatened-language communities. The Committee coordinates its activities with other relevant organizations, such as CIPL, AAA, SSILA, the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, the endangered language committees of the linguistic professional societies of Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, and others, and several private organizations and foundations focused on language endangerment, including the Endangered Language Fund and the Foundation for Endangered Languages.


CELP had an open meeting at the LSA meeting in New York on January 9, 1998. Items discussed included: A plan for honoring the linguistic contributions of native speakers of endangered languages; a proposal to name a "Language of the Year"; information-gathering targeted to language preservation and documentation efforts; liaison with other organizations; and representation, agitation, and reform within the discipline of linguistics regarding language endangerment issues.

It was the sense of the meeting that these items should be addressed by ad hoc task forces of one or more interested LSA members, whether or not they happen to be among the twelve people serving as appointed CELP members at this moment.

The committee will have its next open meeting in Los Angeles on January 8, 1999, as well as an informal breakfast meeting that same morning for just the officially-appointed committee members.

The committee has otherwise interacted by electronic mail. However, the circle of correspondence has been enlarged well beyond the committee proper through the construction of a CELP electronic mailing list, in keeping with our sense that endangered language activism must involve all interested LSA members. The list now contains 167 names, including those of the committee itself.



The Executive Committee of the LSA requested in 1996 that the CELP propose a plan for honoring endangered language speakers who have contributed to linguistics. This plan was discussed in January, 1997 and January, 1998, but no further action has been taken by the committee or any ad hoc task force of the committee. There were differences of opinion on how such an award would be organized, and even on its advisability. A related proposal to name a 'language of the year' was also discussed, but likewise, no consensus was reached on its shape or advisability, nor has further initiative been taken.




Martha Ratliff, incoming CELP chair, reports:

"I remember one idea that was very enthusiastically received last January: the founding of an LSA scholarship to support a graduate student's field research each year. It would be of immediate practical value, and would help make the CELP "mission" clear to the whole Society, thereby contributing to the goal of promoting this kind of training within the field." This is an idea I hope we can pursue in our January, 1999, meeting.


For the last four years there have been regular Field Reports/Endangered Languages sessions at the LSA Annual Meeting, as well as special colloquia and symposia. This year's program includes two regular Field Reports/Endangered Languages sessions, and one symposium by LSA members. The committee expresses its thanks to all involved:

Field reports/Endangered languages. Regular session. Papers by Harold D. Crook, Willem J. de Reuse, Jeanette King, William J. Poser, David B. Solnit, Siri G. Tuttle, and Suzanne Urbanczyk.

Field reports/Endangered languages. Regular session. Papers by Anna Berge, John Foreman, Donna B. Gerdts, Christine Gunlogsun, Marcia Haag, Paul D. Kroeber, Esther Martinez, Siri G. Tuttle, William F. Weigel, and Suzanne Wertheim (UC Berkeley).

Amy Dahlstrom: Symposium. Field work and linguistic theory: American Indianists in the development of American linguistics. Papers by Charles F. Hockett, Wallace Chafe, William Jacobsen, Ken Hale, and Victor Golla.


In 1996 Akira Yamamoto completed a survey of endangered language community populations and speaker populations, by world area and language, including numbers of remaining speakers and contact names of linguists. We have expressed interest in having this survey put on the LSA's web site.


Cambridge University Press has accepted a proposal from Paul Newman and Martha Ratliff for a book on the enterprise of linguistic field work. The prospectus includes paper abstracts from: Jonathan Bobaljik and Susi Wurmbrand, Shobhana L. Chelliah, James Collins, Alan Dench, Nancy C. Dorian, Nicholas Evans, David Gil, Kenneth L. Hale, Larry Hyman, Ian Maddieson, Fiona McLaughlin and Thierno Seydou Sall, Marianne Mithun, Keren Rice, and Tony Woodbury.

Colleen Cotter and Sarah Trechter have mentioned plans to edit a book on the basis of their January, 1998 LSA symposium, . 'Practical Fieldwork: conflicting constraints on the ethical researcher.' The presenters in this symposium raised, through accounts of their personal experiences, a range of complex and important issues widely aired in anthropology but generally left alone by linguists. From my perspective as one of the symposium discussants, the effort met its goals well and received a warm response from a large and diverse audience.


For several years, a number of proposals have been raised to develop information on how linguistic information of various kinds could be mobilized in community language preservation efforts. This includes the development of pedagogical materials from scientific grammars, dictionaries, and text collections; the effective dissemination of scientific results on such topics as multilingualism (e.g., Knowing more than one language won't stunt a child's intellectual growth); and the preparation of videos or how-to kits for communities undertaking language maintenance work.

In this connection, I described in last year's annual report a planning conference that took place under the auspices of the Institute for the Preservation of the Indigenous languages of the Americas (IPOLA) in Santa Fe in Spring, 1997, for a Clearinghouse of Indigenous Language Programs. The conference was chaired by Ofelia Zepeda (U Arizona) and Akira Yamamoto (U Kansas). It is my understanding that this plan continues to move forward. CELP remains ready to assist when asked; however I think it is important to emphasize--perhaps especially to this audience--that the relevance, effectiveness, or even welcomness of LSA or CELP at all stages of such a project cannot be taken for granted. It is best I think to be ready and willing, and, in the meantime, to act as individuals where we can.


Several independent organizations active on endangered languages issues have emerged in the last few years on the iniative of LSA members.

Through the work of its founder Doug Whelan (Haskins Labs), the Endangered Languages Fund became a US nonprofit charitable organization in 1997, has been raising money, and has been giving modest grants to communities and linguists with projects on language preservation.

Another charitable organization, the Foundation for Endangered Languages, has been established in the UK by Nicholas Ostler. Among other things, the FEL, under Nick's guidance, sponsored its second major conference in Edinburgh in September, 1998, titled 'Endangered languages: What role for the specialist?' A proceedings volume for this conference is already available.

Another organization, Terralingua: Partnerships for Linguistic and Biological Diversity, whose president is Luisa Maffi, has been active in a number of ways and has an informative web page at .

The American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI), with which Akira Yamamoto and Ofelia Zepeda (among other LSA members) have been long involved, will be in its 20th season of teaching for community language activists and educators, at the University of Arizona, Tucson. They will also host the Sixth Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Conference, with the theme "One Voice, Many Voices: Recreating Indigenous Language Communities," June 3-5, 1999.


I was contacted by Gunter Senft, vice-president of the German Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Sprachen, asking if CELP wished to become involved in the founding of a journal, 'Endangered Languages,' with Mouton de Gruyter expressing tentative interest as publisher. He proposed to couple receipt of the journal with membership in one of the various endangered languages organizations, including our own. I indicated strong support for the journal plan (but pointed out that coupling receipt of the journal to committee members only would find too narrow an audience, while coupling it to LSA membership would find too wide an audience).


Martha Ratliff, incoming CELP chair, reports:

"LINGUIST moderator Anthony Aristar has proposed two ways LINGUIST could help the endangered languages] effort: (1) as discussed last year, LINGUIST could establish an information site for endangered languages (which could incorporate different types of information that others have proposed we collect -- programs information, publication information, funding information, data collection formats, -- as well as endangered language sketches and word lists) and (2) LINGUIST could mount an on-line conference on endangered languages. They have "test-driven" the concept of the on-line conference at LINGUIST, and the first one was a great success by all reports. They would now like to pursue funding to run a second conference on some aspect of the study of endangered languages in 1999, and would like topic suggestions from the committee, and names of people who would like to be involved. They would do all the organizing -- they just need idea people."


The CELP wishes to thank all those LSA members who have contributed ideas, proposed projects, and become involved during the last year. This includes those mentioned already in this report, and many others too. We give special thanks to those relatively more junior members of the profession who have taken part in these ways and have given so freely of their time.

Thanks also to Elizabeth Traugott and Maggie Reynolds for their help and support.

Finally, let me give my own special thanks to the other 11 members of the committee for their many ideas, initiatives, and contributions.

Tony Woodbury

Professor and Chair
Dept. of Linguistics
Calhoun Hall 501
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712, USA
Phone: +1(512)471 1701
Fax: +1(512)471 4340