Foundation for Endangered Languages

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5. Allied Societies and Activities

Japan Supports Research on Languages of the Pacific Rim

Osahito Miyaoka wrote on 26 Dec 1999:

A major research project is now under way in Japan, funded by the Ministry of Education, to support systematic and swift measures to preserve endangered languages of Pacific rim minorities where research has been lagging, at the same time retaining a long-term perspective.

Priority will be placed on languages whose continued existence is in question and will focus on four areas: (1) Gathering and sorting records from previous linguistic surveys;
(2) Undertaking new field work
(3) Recording, organizing, and analyzing linguistic data; and
(4) Publishing the results (dictionaries, grammars, textbooks, etc.) and entering this information into databases.

In the fiscal year beginning in April 2000, three-year projects will be launched on planned research topics (around 35 in all) and research proposals will be publicly solicited. Projects will take the form of focused linguistic surveys and research (Type A) or cross-disciplinary research (Type B) on theory, methodology, and information processing, intended to back up Type A efforts. A total of seven topics have been selected according to region and research content:

  • A01: South Pacific Rim
  • A02: North Pacific Rim (including the Ainu language)
  • A03: East and Southeast Asia
  • A04: Japan (includes Japanese spoken abroad)

  • B01: Methods for surveying endangered languages
  • B02: Dynamic research on language extinction and preservation
  • B03: Survey research support through information processing

    Applications for both types will be accepted again in the autumn of 2000.

    Overseas linguists can join the project by forming a group with a Japanese researcher who works on the same (or a close) language.

    For further information (in English) visit:

    Or contact Prof. Osahito Miyaoka (Professor, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University) at: omiyaoka(at)

    Language Foundation planned in Canada

    26 Dec 1999:

    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

    My name is Chief Ron. E. Ignace. I am the chair of the National Chiefs' Committee on Languages for the Assembly of First Nations (Canada). I would like to inform you of our agenda and to enlist all the support I can. The Committee's objective is to get our languages legally recognized by way of legislation and to set up a Language Foundation (as a Royal Commission), which can be capitalized to $100 million, of which $50 million is to be raised privately. We are establishing a committee called "Friends of Aboriginal Languages"; we hope, with the support of our National Chief, to enlist Senators, MP's, business leaders, sports personalities, musicians, and other individuals who are interested and concerned.


    The AFN Chiefs in Assembly have declared 2000 a year dedicated to Aboriginal languages. The AFN's next National Assembly, which will be held in Montreal, is dedicated to Languages. There will be fund raising activities leading up to and during the Assembly. All proceeds will be targeted at the communities which are the cradles of the languages and to facilitate intergenerational transfer of the languages. I would appreciate your support.

    If you have any questions or suggestions you can e-mail me at the address below or phone +1-613-241-6789
    (Louise LaHache, language sector, AFN).

    Happy Holidays,

    --Chief Ron. E. Ignace

    UNESCO declaration supports traditional knowledge and languages
    Luisa Maffi writes, on 29 Nov 1999:

    I finally got to read the text of the "Declaration on Science: Agenda and Framework for Action" put out by the UNESCO-International Council for Science (ICSU) at a conference in Budapest last summer--a big-time document that is being widely commented upon. Paragraph 86, under section 3.4 "Modern science and other systems of knowledge", reads:

    86. Governmental and non-governmental organizations should sustain traditional knowledge systems through active support of the societies that are keepers and developers of this knowledge, their ways of life, their languages [my emphasis], their social organization and the environments in which they live, and fully recognize the contribution of women as repositories of a large part of traditional knowledge.

    The full document is on the web

    Here is evidence that the argument some of us have been making for the past several years is beginning to be heard internationally. Other paragraphs in the document also speak about the relationship between modern science and traditional knowledge. Now, of course, the proof is in the local pudding, so to speak: i.e., in actions taken by national governments, regional and local institutions, etc., to actually promote and support this perspective.

    Luisa Maffi
    Program in Cognitive Studies of the Environment
    Northwestern University