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2. Appeals


Received on the web:

Subject: Re: Aragonese problem
Date: Tue, 4 Apr 95 19:56:11 +0100

Do you know the difficult situation of Aragonese Language?

The Aragonese language is disappearing because our government is not making it possible to legalize it.

If you're interested mail me and I’ll send you more information

don't let our voice die.

PS. There will be soon an Aragonese language page on the Web

Unibersida de Zaragoza - Aragon

Salu, tierra y liberta - Sla/inte, tir, agus saoirse


I enclose a recent message in full that appeared on the Endangered-Languages-L electronic list. Readers may wish to act on it:

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 1995 14:00:28 -1000
From: Rose Mary Henze henze(at)uhunix.uhcc.
Subject: support for Hawaiian
Sender: owner-endangered-languages-l(at)coombs.

I am writing to ask people on this list for support in a time that is yet another turning point for the survival of the Hawaiian language. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the situation:

As some of you may already know, Hawaiian is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts after coming very close to extinction. Except for the island of Ni'ihau, which has a very small population, there were virtually no native speakers left under the age of 70. Now, after a great deal of effort by community members, support from university and community college programs which teach Hawaiian, and the Department of Education, Hawaiian is being learned as a second language by approximately 800 students pre-school through 8th grade in an immersion program. Teachers for this program are drawn from among those who have studied Hawaiian in the university. The State of Hawai'i also now recognizes Hawaiian as one of the "official" languages of Hawai'i. Though the language is not being spoken widely in communities, and intergenerational transmission of it as a home language is still a long way off for most families, there has been clear progress in terms of creating many new speakers (both adults and children) and extending Hawaiian into new domains (e.g. all school subjects through 8th grade are taught through Hawaiian; a lexicon committee meets regularly to coin new words for these school and other uses). Some of the recent literature on language revitalization cites the Hawaiian case as an example of success (e.g. Leanne Hinton's Flutes of Fire). Enthusiasm is demonstrated locally in long waiting lists for Hawaiian language classes at the adult level and similarly long waiting lists for space in the immersion program itself. The program is actively recruiting new teachers who are proficient speakers of Hawaiian, but there are far too few to fill the need.

The problem currently is that the governor is doing some serious budget cutting and higher education is one of the targets. Within higher Ed., the Hawaiian language program stands to lose about two-thirds of its current operating budget. If this happens, it will have a tremendous ripple effect on the revitalization of Hawaiian in general. Hawaiian language classes at the university would be cut back drastically, and as a result there could be no further hiring for the immersion program, despite waiting lists, "official" language status, Native American Languages Act, etc.



I think that support from a national and international community concerned with endangered languages might make an impression on decision-makers. I don't think they realize the extent to which this is a global issue, nor are they aware that other people are looking to Hawai'i as one of the examples of strong revitalization efforts.

If you are willing, please write letters expressing your concern, outrage, etc. to the following people:

Kenneth Mortimer, President
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Bach 202, Honolulu, HI 96822
FAX: (808) 956-5286

Governor Ben Cayetano
Office of the Governor
State Office Towers
Honolulu, HI 96813

Please cc any correspondence to:

No’eau Warner, Coordinator
Hawaiian Language Program
Spaulding 459, 2540 Maile Way
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, HI 96822

Thank you,

Rosemary Henze

Natural Language Processing

Received on the web:

Date: Thu, 20 Apr 1995 12:03:40 +0200
From: T M Ellison (marke(at)
Subject: Can NLP help maintaining language diversity?

This request is particularly addressed to those linguists working with languages in danger of extinction, but I would welcome responses from any interested party. I suggest that responders reply directly to me, and I'll summarise for the list --- the usual request. And, in advance, let me thank you for your help with these queries.

I would like to make a case for the proposition (call it P).

P=``Natural language processing (NLP) tools can assist in slowing, if not halting, the slide of individual languages towards extinction.''

By NLP tools, I include most computer programs designed to manipulate language for the production/analysis/checking of speech or text: spelling checkers, morphological analysers, syntactic parsers, on-line dictionaries, speech recognition and generation software, machine-assisted translation tools. For the purposes of this discussion, I would prefer to exclude computer-aided learning (CALL), and other didactic tools (for the purposes of this discussion).

Now for the questions. These are aimed at identifying (a) your evaluation of proposition P, and (b) possible evidence for it.

Q1. Is P true? Can (any, some or all) NLP tools help keep languages alive? If not, is there any role for technology in maintaining language diversity?

Questions 2 and 3 are predicated on P being true.

Q2. Are there any NLP tools which have had a positive impact on the survival of a language?

Q3. Which new tools (feel free to make them up, within reason) would be of greatest assistance? This includes tools of a well-known kind being instantiated for a particular language. Specific examples, such as `Normalised spelling in Zamzyra would be easier to enforce if we had spelling checkers using morphological analysers, because of the complex morphophonemics in the language. Normalised spelling conventions would help maintain sufficient literature in Zamzyra to counteract the association of education and literature with language Zobzob.'

Thank you for your answers to these questions.

Mark Ellison marke(at)