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4. Appeals, News and Views from Endangered Communities

Attitudes to and within Brittany

From Paul Kerisit, we received the following note of dissent, or perhaps rather, protest:

6 Plasenn ar Rouziged, F-29980 Enez Tudi
Île de Tudy, France; Wed, 21 Feb 2001
Dear Sir,
… je me permets de protester contre la phrase de la Libre Belgique reproduite en page 9 de votre bulletin Ogmios, automne 2000: "[la Bretagne] s'est toujours montrée fière de ses traditions sans pour cela remettre fondamentalement en question le modèle républicain - à quelques exceptions près bien sûr."
Pas du tout: moi-même et d'autres Bretons rejetons fondamentalement le modèle républicain français fanatique, un et indivisible et revendiquons une République bretonne indépendante qui pourrait faire partie de l'union Européenne comme l'Islande ou le Danemark. D'après un sondage d'opinion dans les 5 départements bretons par le Télégramme de Brest et Press-Océan (Nantes) 23% des Bretons sont indépendantistes, surtout les jeunes dans le Loire-Atlantique. On peut seulement regretter que ces deux journaux aient confondu volontairement le régionalisme, l'autonomisme et l'indépendantisme, appelés tous les trois "indépendantisme". Cela n'empêche pas les Français d'être très fiers de leur langage, la plus précise du monde, permit-il.

Many songs, one tune: response on behalf of the Tofa(lar)

On Wed, 17 Jan 2001, K. David Harrison of the Altai-Sayan Language and Ethnography Project (ASLEP) wrote to us:

… Thanks for giving me a copy of the article on the Tofa(lar) in your recent newsletter. I showed it to the other members of my Tofa documentation project. We felt it was overly negative in tone (though not untrue!). I guess one makes a conscious decision to like and admire the people among whom one is doing fieldwork. Therefore we may have simply chosen to ignore the less pleasant aspects of Tofa life (drunkenness, violence, poverty, etc.). Of course, it didn't make it any easier to have those things revealed to us (and the rest of the world) by the cold gaze of a journalist! Nor did it help that the article was full of misspellings of proper names and factual mistakes.

As a kind of response, we'd like to offer a slightly different, more charitable view of the Tofa, based on the premise that members of the Tofa community have devoted many hours to talking to us in their native tongue (NOT merely in Russian, as they did to the journalist). A further premise is that the Tofa have something to say about themselves that may be worth hearing. We also note that when speakers of minority/indigenous communities of Russia do talk to 'outsiders', they tend towards extreme self-deprecation. This arises out of many decades of (post-)Soviet cultural dialogue (or perhaps one should say monologue), in which the cultural inferiority of such peoples was tacitly assumed by all and openly asserted by the indigenous peoples themselves. A journalist does have the responsibility, if s/he is going to simply repeat such remarks verbatim, to acknowledge the bias that underlies them.

I'm attaching for your consideration a rather informal 'field report' based on our recent expedition to the Tofa(lar). In the report, entitled "Many songs, one tune: A field report from Tofalaria", we assess the current state of Tofa language, reindeer herding culture, and the possible relation between these. We also discuss Tofa music and attempts at cultural revitalization. If you feel that any part of the report might be appropriate for your newsletter, please let me know. Many thanks for providing through your newsletter an important forum and for allowing us to participate in the discussion.

The Tofa community
The Tofa (or Karagas) nation numbers about 600 persons, inhabiting three remote villages in the Sayan mountains of southern Siberia. For ten months of each year, these villages can be reached only by helicopter or by small, 1940's vintage bi-planes. In the dead of winter, one can drive along frozen rivers in an all-terrain truck to reach Tofa villages. Their extreme isolation has proved to be both a hardship and a benefit, as the Tofa struggle with the collapse of their traditional hunting and reindeer herding lifestyle and the impending loss of their language and cultural traditions.

Expedition Goals
In November 2000, four members of the Altai-Sayan Language and Ethnography Project (ASLEP) undertook a two week expedition to Tofalaria. Our team consisted of linguist David Harrison, anthropologist Brian Donahoe, musicologist Sven Grawunder, and native Tuvan scholar Afanassij Myldyk. We flew into the largest Tofa village Aligdzer (population about 500, of which 278 are officially registered as Tofa), where we were hospitably received by community leaders.

We set for ourselves the following tasks: First, find out exactly what remains of (a) Tofa language, (b) Tofa music and (c) the traditional reindeer herding ecology. Second, begin a comprehensive documentation of these in digital video, photographs, and field notes. Thirdly, lay the groundwork for future field visits and community assistance in preservation or revitalization of Tofa.

a. Language
Tofa is clearly moribund in Aligdzer village. In the other two Tofa villages, Nerkha and Gutara, there reportedly remain households where the youngest members speak Tofa. These more remote villages also retain a population of Tofa in their 30s who are still fluent and frequent speakers. On our next expedition, planned for March 2001, we will visit these more remote villages to record these speakers. Still, it seems likely that Tofa is moribund. The village schools have recently been closed due to lack of resources and school-aged children sent to Russian boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their native communities. Boarding schools have typically constituted the final step in the loss of prestige and subsequent destruction of small Siberian languages under Soviet (now Russian) governance.

Nonetheless, Tofa still shows dialect diversity (even with so few speakers!), an archaic lexicon, and grammatical structures that set it apart from its closest relatives (e.g. Tuha, Tuvan, Tozhu) with which it is largely mutually comprehensible. The Tofa lexicon contains many words that attest to an animistic world-view, as evidenced in a profusion of taboo names for the bear. The Bear is called iresang, rendered euphemistically as ulug ang 'great animal', kulaktyg ang 'animal with ears', tuktug ang 'furry animal', kara chume 'black thing', etc. But such euphemisms and other specialized semantic structures are undergoing collapse under influence of Russian language shift. For example, we found the formerly rich systems of kinship terms to be greatly reduced.

Though many Tofa still claim Tofa as their "native tongue" a far smaller number report knowledge of it. Fluent speakers make up a tiny number: about 8 persons in Aligdzer, all aged 50 or older. A number of passive bilinguals or semi-speakers claims to understand the language, but these people are 40 or older. No persons under 30 reported any knowledge of the language.

b. Song and sound mimesis
Herders and hunters of the Altai-Sayan region, including the Tofa, exhibit highly specialized abilities for mimicking and stylizing the natural acoustic environment. Together, these phenomena may confer an adaptive advantage by offering herders another tool to manage scarce resources. Musicologist Ted Levin, who advises our project, has encouraged us to document sound mimesis as manifested in hunting calls, animal sound imitation, and more structured song and spoken forms.

Some of the elder members of the Tofa community can perform various animal calls and a few still remember an ancient singing tradition. Employing a special vocal register, a seemingly frail and soft-spoken 85-year old Tofa lady—Varvara Adamova—surprised us with the power and resonance of her singing voice. She, along with her 75-year old sister Galina Adamova, were the only remaining inhabitants of Aligdzer who still sing in Tofa. The sisters sang dozens of songs for us during a week of recording sessions. Many of the songs describe daily activities (milking and herding reindeer) that the sisters had practiced in their youth. Some songs had more metaphysical themes—the bear cult, Tofa deities and spirits, love and friendship, etc. Curiously, we found that all the songs were set to a single, unvarying melody (motif). Other community members assured us that this was true of all Tofa songs. Distinctive song styles of the three villages vary slightly in tempo or pitch, but all conform rigidly to the canonical motif.

c. Reindeer Ecology
The Tofa, like neighboring peoples the Tuha and Tozhu, were once reindeer-herders relying on deer for transport and on hunting and gathering activities for food. But south Siberian reindeer herding is in steep decline, and has been for the last century. The Tuha are down to about 700 deer, the Tozhu have perhaps 1,000 deer, and the Tofa now keep only 200 to 300 head of deer. Decline in deer stocks is due to in-breeding, disease, predation (wolves), and the collapse of the Soviet planned economy. The decline has reached such a nadir that it is not clear whether these people, faced with a complete disappearance of deer, can maintain their traditional economic livelihoods in any meaningful way at all. Sable (fur) hunting, for example—an activity that provides much of the community's cash income—requires intensive use of reindeer.

The decline of the Tofa language has gone hand in hand with the decline in reindeer ecology. Specialized herding technologies encoded in the language (for example elaborate systems for naming deer, complex animal domestication songs, and hunting calls) vanish as Tofa youth shift to exclusive use of Russian. Much of the intricate knowledge needed to manage resources and animals may be lost to the younger generation.

Linguistic attitudes and traditional culture
Is Tofa language loss directly linked with the decline of the Tofa reindeer ecology? To address this issue, we administered a comprehensive survey covering about one quarter of the Tofa population of Aligdzer (72 persons representing 50 households). People responded to questions about their ethnic affiliation, ancestry, language use, and involvement in 'traditional' economic activities such as hunting, deer herding, and gathering of medicinal plants and berries.

At this point it remains impossible to establish a causal relationship between language loss and the decline of reindeer herding as the principal economic activity of the area and the basis of 'Tofa' culture and identity. We can only state as fact that the language is in severe decline, and reindeer herding has been reduced to the activity of a single family with a herd of around 200 head of deer, down from 1,100 deer in 1977 and several thousand in the 1960s.

Our survey results show that 24 of 72 respondents (33%) have been at some time personally involved in reindeer herding. Of those, 14 (58%) claim some degree of knowledge and occasional use the Tofa language. Of the 48 who have never been involved in reindeer herding, only 16 (33%) report knowledge and occasional use of the Tofa language. It remains an open question whether the loss of language and semantic domains associated with reindeer ecology and the herding lifestyle can be said to lead to a decline in the activities themselves, or whether, conversely, the decline of reindeer herding has lead to the loss of the linguistic domains and to a loss of language viability more generally as these domains fall into disuse.

Community assistance
We consulted with community elders and leaders to determine how we might transfer resources to assist them in their efforts at preservation or revitalization of Tofa. After talking with community members, we arrived at a plan to sponsor activities currently planned or envisioned by the existing Tofa cultural center. Proposed allocations include: purchase of school textbooks; purchase of a video player and television; production and distribution of video materials we have filmed; sponsorship for the annual cultural festival Argamchy Yry; and publishing subvention for materials already collected by community members. As an example of the latter, a local scholar has compiled over 3,000 Tofa hydronyms and toponyms (with accompanying maps), representing an set of language data highly valued by the community but forgotten by most people. We have sent a proposal to the Tofa community outlining the assistance we expect to be able to provide and soliciting a concrete proposal and budget from them.

We formally initiated ASLEP in June 2000 with fieldwork on a complex of closely languages within the Altai-Sayan region: thes are Tofa, Tuha, Tsengel Tuvan and Tozhu. Project members Harrison and Grawunder continue to make frequent trips to the Altai-Sayan language communities spread out across a large but contiguous region of Siberia and Mongolia. Anthropologist Brian Donahoe has been in the field continuously since the project began, living with Tozhu reindeer herders and documenting their ecology, culture and language. For a more detailed account of Brian's work, please access our website, and download his draft report:
Adaptive Responses to Institutional Collapse Among the Reindeer Herders of Tyva.
funded by Volkswagen-Stiftung

Our project is affiliated in the U.S. with the Endangered Language Fund (ELF) at the Department of Linguistics, Yale University. In Germany, we are formally affiliated with MPI-EVA.

Campaigners Delighted at Welsh Medium School Victory

Bernard Moffatt, Secretary General, Celtic League, wrote on 23/02/01:

Campaigning parents are reported to be "delighted" after winning their campaign for a Welsh-medium primary school in one of the most predominantly English-speaking counties in Wales.

The struggle to establish the unit began two years ago in south Monmouthshire because children had to endure a one-hour journey to Welsh schools in either the north of the county or in neighbouring Newport.

There appears to have been initial opposition within the local Council however the issue was resolved when Labour councillors who had previously opposed the plan reversed their decision.

Campaigner Rhiannon Edwards said: “It is a victory for Wales, its culture and its heritage. We can now look forward to children getting the education they want, and without having to travel so far.”

This latest good news for the Celtic languages comes hard on the heels of positive language education initiatives in Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries of the western British Isles and Brittany. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It targets human rights abuse and monitors all military activity within these areas +44-1624 627128 MOBILE +44-4624 491609

ABC Amazigh: journal qui demande notre aide. Azul fellawen d fellakwent!

On 17 September 2000 the following was received by Hassan Ouzzate , local organizer of our next conference (in Morocco). It comes form the would-be editor of a an Berber magazine in Algeria. Hassan writes: This is the case of an Amazigh (Berber) language militant, but it could be anybody, anywhere.

Aidez-moi!, Aidez-moi! Ainsi peut être résumé le cri de détresse (ci-dessous) du militant de la première heure, Smaïl Medjeber , suite aux graves difficultés financières menaçant la revue "ABC Amazigh", qu'il dirige depuis quelques années, de disparition faute de lectorat conséquent. Smaïl appelle les militants et militantes de la cause amazighe à l'aider à faire vivre cette publication en s'abonnant et en faisant abonner ses proches et amis(es) ou en achetant 1 exemplaire pour lire et 2 pour soutenir.
Editions Tizrigin Yuba Wissin
Cité Soummam Bt 15C No 9
Bab Ezzouar 16112 Alger
Compte bancaire: BDL 107 400 23429.3
CCP 46 555 83 clé 51 Alger
Tarif de l'abonnement annuel:
· 330 Dirhams Algériens (Algérie et Amazighie)
· 450 Dirhams Algériens (France, Europe)
Tarif de soutien :à votre gré.
Réglement : Chéque bancaire barré (à joindre sous
enveloppe) Ou mandat postal correctement libellé à
l'ordre de: Editions Tizrigin Yuba Wissin.

Chers (éres) amis(es) lecteurs, lectrices,

Vous savez tous comment j'ai créé cette modeste publication. Après ma longue et pénible incarcération, j'ai voulu de nouveau servir cette noble cause qu'est l'écriture et la promotion de notre langue.

Première déception: un prétendu associé fortuné, me laissa au milieu de la route. Seul, démuni, dans une situation précaire,je me suis lancé dans l'aventure. Grâce au soutien de quelques amis et à des sponsors, cette publication a survécu.

Deuxième déception: il n'y a pas de lectorat amazigh. Le lectorat potentiel est, il faut le reconnaître, exclusivement francophone. Cependant, ce lectorat ne maîtrise point la transcription usuelle amazighe. Malgrè sa bonne volonté, il ne suit pas. (Les très rares exceptions confirment cette réalité) Ce qui me place entre le mareau et l'enclume, entre mon désir de promouvoir l'écriture et la diffusion de notre langue et l'inexistence d'un lectorat régulier et suffisant. Les associations culturellesou les militants -ou ceux qui se donnent ce titre- sont absorbés par les courants politiques, ou les valses folkloriques, et, restent sourds au discours culturel, de cette même culture qu'ils prétendent défendre.

Sans publication, il ne peut y avoir de langue ou de culture, au sens moderne du terme. Notre langue et notre culture souffrent prècisément de désert éditorial. Une publication, c'est une réalité incontournable, ne peut survivre sans lecteurs ou sans subvention (aucune institution culturelle nationale ou internationale n'apporte son soutien à cette publication même par un abonnement symbolique). C'est pour cette raison qu'ABC Amazigh risque de disparaître.

La solution? Cependant, il reste une seule solution pour sa survie. Cette unique et dernière solution, elle est entre vos mains: achetez, chaque mois, un exemplaire pour lire et deux pour soutenir. Les deux exemplaires supplémentaires, nécessaires pou la survie d'ABC Amazigh, combleront le vide en lectorat (et en déficit), vous les offrirez , à chaque fois, à des personnes différentes, afin de les inciter à lire, afin de créer un lectorat amazigh.

Cette solution de crise, cet effort de guerre reste la dernière chance. Je me suis coupé en quatre pour créer et tenir ABC Amazigh. A vous de vous multiplier en trois pour faire survivre cette publication, la vôtre.

En achetant un exemplaire pour lire et deux autres pour soutenir. De précaire, ayant tout sacrifié, tout investi dans cette publication, ma propre situation est devenue, pour ne rien vous cacher, préoccupante, à la limite du dénouement. Tewwed' tfidi ar yighes!. J'ose espérer que je ne suis plus seul à présent. Aidez-moi! Aidez-moi! Aidez-moi! Afus deg fus akken taakem ad tifsus!



Sinon... aqerruy iw d aferd'as.
Humblememt, désespérément, amzighement vôtre.
Mohand Ousmaïl Medjeber.

Win iran ad yessali Tamazight deg Marikan
Ad yughal d amaslad' n Tiddukla Tadelsant Tamazight deg Marikan - Amazigh Cultural Association in America:

News of the N|u languages, and an Appeal

On Fri, 17 Nov 200, Nigel Crawhall of the South African San Institute, wrote:

It is a while since I have written to you. I have many exciting things to tell you. We have so far located 24 speakers of the ancient N|u languages, the last of the Southern San !Ui languages. Sadly three have died this year alone, including one this week.

Last month we taught the first N|u course to young people from the San community who asked to be part of the research and training programme. We are about to embark on a second round of teaching. The elders are very excited as are the young people. A major hurdle has been passed by getting the stigma of the language and identity set aside.

I am writing to you today in connection with one of the researchers who has played a very important role in this project. Levi Namaseb is an L1 speaker of Khoekhoegowap, a Central Khoesan language. He is from Namibia and has successfully learned the N|u language and developed teaching materials for the young people here in South Africa.

He has just accepted a PhD candidature at the University of Toronto. They are paying a substantial part of his fees, but not enough to cover his living costs, and he will also have no money to come back to Southern Africa to help us with further research and teaching.

I am hoping ou can advise Levi on where he can find grant support for his valuable work. His email is, and that of our project partner in the UK, Dr Hugh Brody,

… Nigel Crawhall, South African San Institute, PO Box 790, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa Tel:

Euchee elder’s death damages bid to keep history alive. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Irene Delpino sent us this, a story she found in Dallas Morning News, Sat. Feb. 10, 2001. She comments:

I note a knowledge gap between what the grassroots preservationists seem to know and what linguists, anthropologists, and archaeologists know. The Yuchi (modern “Euchee”) did not “originate” in Alabama and Georgia. They were living there as a refugee tribe within the Creek Confederation at the time of forced removal, but the Oklahoma descendants don’t seem to know that sixteenth-century Spanish explorers first encountered the Yuchi in east Tennessee living in Mississipian-style villages, and that they wandered quite a bit during European colonization and the fur-trade wars. The language is not just “different,” it is an isolate of great interest to linguists. Wonder why the academic publications have stayed ivory-tower? But to the story…

The death of an elderly tribesman has complicated efforts to save the dying Euchee Indian language and record the tribe’s fading history.

Last month, 82-year-old Mose Cahwee died. Mr. Cahweed had provided volumes on Euchee history on hundreds of families that once lived near Bristow, Sapulpa and Liberty Mounds, near Tulsa.

“Mose was very active in the language and culture,” said University of Tulsa anthropology professor Richard Grounds, himself an Euchee descendant. “He was kind of a walking encyclopedia. He knew the history and Euchee medicine plants. Now, only about five Euchee speakers are left,” Dr. Grounds said. “That is out of about 2,400 people who say they are Euchee descendants.”

Dr. Grounds is working on the Euchee Language Preservation Project, which is sponsored by a $297,300 federal grant. The three-year-grant has enabled Dr. Grounds and Euchee speakers to gather weekly at the Sapulpa Indiuan Community Center to record the language and history. Dr. Grounds isn’t fluent in the language, but he’s learning.

Euchee is sometimes spelled Yuchi. The tribe originated in Alabama and Georgia, but their language was different from neighboring tribes. The Euchee population shrank in northeast Oklahoma over the years, and use of the language dwindled as well. Dr. Grounds said the language is not dead, although it is close to extinction.

Remembering the language isn’t easy for native speakers. Euchee elder Maggie Cumsey Marsey, 82, squints one eye, cocks her head and stares into space as she tries to remember the Euchee word for corn soup. She hasn’t spoken the word in decades. Sometimes she recalls a Creek word instead because Creeks and Euchees often intermarried and learned parts of each other’s language. Ms. Marsey said she was discouraged from speaking her native tongue when she attended Lone Star school in the 1930’s. “I can speak it, but I struggle sometimes because I haven‚t said some of these words in 30 or 40 years,” she said.

Dr. Grounds said he hopes the project helps develop a curriculum, based on phonetics in the absence of a native alphabet, to teach Euchee to future generations. Dr. Grounds and project assistants Wanda A. Greene and Linda Littlebear Harjo are also working with elders to create new Euchee words to keep the language current. The new words would be for bicycle, telephone and computer.

The preservation project is to be completed in 2003, Dr. Grounds said. The work and artifacts are to be housed at the University of Tulsa.

Time for a literature in Rapa Nui, a potentially endangered language?

Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 From: Grant McCall

I have your e-mail from the appendix of David Crystal's book, "Language Death" which I purchased to use in my introductory anthropology lectures last year and brought with me for my fieldwork on Rapanui (Easter Island), which is run from January 2001 to June 2002.

When I did my first fieldwork, between 1972-4, Rapanui was a vigorous language, spoken widely in the community and within earshot where ever one went in the small village of Hangaroa on the island. It is one of the 1,782 languages with between 1,000 and 9,999 speakers (Crystal 2000: 15). The current population of Rapanui world-wide according to my genealogies is probably around 3,500, with most of those living on the island itself and the rest scattered around Chile, Tahiti, with smaller numbers in the USA and Europe.

I use the term in the subject of this e-mail "potentially endangered" from the quoted Wurm classification on p. 21 of Crystal.

With the incursion of direct satellite broadcast television from Santiago (Rapanui has been a part of Chile since 1888), radio and the influence of the many Chileans who reside here, the language is under threat of extinction. When a Rapanui marries a Chilean, and that accounts for most of the marriages today, the language of the household becomes Chilean Spanish. The child often can understand Rapanui, but cannot speak it and it soon lapses.

In spite of this, people are proud of their language, its distinctiveness amongst Pacific language and avidly purchase and listen to the many recordings of the island's traditional and modern music available on cassette and CD.

All the characteristics of language death described by Crystal are in force, and I will not go into them just now. But there is some hope that I derive from his "six postulates" for survival (pp. 130-143):

1)An endangered language will progress if its speakers increase their prestige within the dominant community;
2)An endangered language will progress if its speakers increase their wealth relative to the dominant community;
3)An endangered language will progress if its speakers increase their legitimate power in the eyes of the dominant community;
4)An endangered language will progress if its speakers have a strong presence in the educational system;
5)An endangered language will progress if its speakers can write their language down; and,
6)An endangered language will progress if its speakers can make use of electronic technology.

Chilean officialdom has a tender spot for Rapanui and for most things Rapanui. Officially, Rapanui language and culture is supported and encouraged by the Chilean state. This tender spot, though, is more of a romantic, even touristic interest: no one makes a living on the island by knowing Rapanui. As people often remark, "the Rapanui language goes as far as the airport". I have heard this phrase so often during my three weeks (so far for a total of 18 months) stay that I think it might have come from some sort of well-known speech or other source. Usually the exact words are used and by a variety of young and old speakers to me. Next time I must ask its origin, since I did not hear it during my previous fieldwork.

The dominant community on Easter Island are the Islanders themselves. Chileans marry into Rapanui families and, in that way, get residence on a piece of land. Chilean small-businesspeople rent their shops from Rapanui landlords. The local tourism, including accommodation, entertainment, tours and support services is in the hands of the Rapanui themselves. There is one non-Rapanui hotel. It is the largest and the one with the most prestige. It used to be government run, but was bought out during the Pinochet term when so many things were privatised. But very rich Rapanui there are not, although one does own (just) a large hotel and a cargo ship that brings goods to the island.

The Governor of Easter Island, who is appointed in the French inspired Chilean system, has been a Rapanui since 1983. The third governor since then, appointed just last year, continues the tradition. The Mayor of the municipality and all the councilors are Rapanui, occasionally a Chilean married to a Rapanui being elected. The high prestige staff in the public services, such as the bank, are all Chilean as are the professional and technical staff. The television station, whilst owned by the Municipality, is staffed by Chileans. The Naval Marines, National Police and Air Force personnel all are from Chile, sent here to "guard" the island against takeover (by whom, all ask).

Most of the School teachers in the local primary and secondary ("Liceo") school are Chileans; there are a few helpers who are Rapanui who give special Rapanui classes encouraged by the Chilean system. Rapanui no longer is forbidden within the School as it once was about 30 years ago. Promising children are sent with government and family aid to Chile for further education, all by Chileans of course.

Rapanui only recently has been part of the weekly Mass, Tahitian texts being used since 1866. There is a move to have more of the Mass in Rapanui and the Chilean priest in charge encourages this, although he does not speak the language. There were some roughly cyclostyled ("mimeographed") booklets produced by a couple (Robert & Nancy Weber) from the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the 1980s in Rapanui. They are not widely used or known. No other literature in Rapanui exists. The language has been written since the 1860s and some Rapanui actually correspond in Rapanui. There is a biweekly language studies group consisting of senior men who meet to discuss language matters with an eye to producing a dictionary. They are paid for this by the Municipality and meet in the culture centre. Jesus Conte, originally from Spain, but living on Rapanui for a decade or more, is the director of this group. He has translated a 19th century missionary dictionary from the French (of Father Roussell) and a "structural grammar" that I have not seen.

Finally, there are a number of e-mail addresses on the island and one Internet centre, all run by Rapanui who speak Rapanui and who have training in Chile in programming and computer design. The e-mail addresses are used mostly for tourism businesses, but some occupy them for personal contact with distant family members.

So, why this long e-mail?

It seems to me that the existence of a viable literature is at least one factor in the potential for a rejuvenation of Rapanui as a language. No such literature exists at the moment.

Equally since I have been here, a number of people have expressed to me the desire to "write a book". One woman wants to write a study of female dress and as a start put on a two hour show earlier this month with models (her family members) and old photographs and engravings projected to an audience of most of the island. Another woman wants to write her autobiography as she was the first town council member in 1966 and was involved in the modernisation of Rapanui from that date in various paid and volunteer roles. A young man has as a grandfather a Marquesan who came here in the 1930s and he wants to write a family history telling this story. Finally, just yesterday, there is a young man who is keen to detail land issues in the island's recent history.

I am not encouraging such commentary; I am a social anthropologist and not a linguist. My work revolves around genealogies, land use and relations with the Chilean state.

What interests me is that people themselves want to write about these topics (they didn't during my two previous visits in 1972-4 and 1985-6) and to do do in Rapanui.

There are no facilities here on Rapanui at the moment to do such a task and I write to your organisations in this general way because I hope that there might be an organisation - even an interested linguist - who might be willing to carrying out such a project: to assist Islanders in the production of contemporary literature in the Rapanui language creating at once the status of author and the literary material so needed if the language itself is to survive.

Any suggestions or comments would be most gratefully received. I do this as a researcher on the island, from the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, and not representing any group or individual on the island other than myself.

If there is someone who is interested in pursuing a project of language survival and literature production, I would be pleased to put such a project to local authorities, such as the Mayor and the Governor, both of whom I know...
Grant McCall,
Centre for South Pacific Studies
Univ. NSW, Sydney NSW 2052 Australia.

Bob and Nancy Weber replied (22 Mar 2001):

Since 1977, the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile and SIL International have colaborated in a joint project of Rapa Nui linguistic research, textbook and literature development, teacher training, literacy, and translation of the Christian scriptures. My wife, Nancy, and I reside on Easter Island and are the principal linguists for this project, known as the "Programa Lengua Rapa Nui". Sociolinguist, Luis Gmez Macker, and others of the university on the mainland have at times also been involved. Although there still remains much to do, much has been accomplished during the past twenty-four years.

I must add that we are by no means the only linguists who have studied Rapa Nui, nor the only ones with current interest in the language. We are, however, about the only linguists who are doing anything of an applied nature, in addition to language analysis and description.

If we can be of assistance to anyone interested in the Rapa Nui language, please feel free to get in touch with us.

Sincerely yours,

Roberto/Nancy Weber
both B.A., M.A. Linguistics
Correo Hanga Roa
Isla de Pascua
FAX (fwded by e-mail): +1-509-267-8252
TEL: 56-32-100372
FAX: +56-32-100105 Mark "ROBERTO WEBER"

Scots Gaelic Broadcasting Examined

Saturday, March 31, 2001
The Scots Gaelic broadcasting group - Comataidh Craolaidh Gaidhlig (CCG) - is to have its progress evaluated by the Scottish Parliaments Education, Sport and Culture Committee. The parliamentary committee will look into the activities of CCG and how it effects its audience and the Gaelic speaking community; its effect on the language, the arts, education and the legal and financial framework. The inquiry will mark the 10th anniversary of CCG which was established to fund and broaden the range of Gaelic programmes.

Mike Russell MSP, Committee Reporter, has said; "With the arrival of digital television, however, the broadcasting task force headed by Alasdair Milne has proposed a move towards a full digital channel. The committee therefore feels it is in Scotland's social and cultural interest to examine the implications of that proposal and the achievments of the Gaelic television committee to date".

The committee is seeking written evidence from individuals and organisations with an interest in, and knowledge of, Gaelic broadcasting. Written comments can be sent to; Peter Reid, Room 2.7 Committee Chambers, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

Submissions must be sent in by May 18th, be no more than 5 pages in length, and contributors must state if they do not want their evidence published.