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6. Reports on Meetings

First International Meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Languages of Brazil

Ana Suelly Arruda Camara Cabral asacc(at)

On the 12th October, 2001, on the campus of the Federal University of Pará, came to the end the First International Meeting on the Brazilian Indigenous Languages: Phonology, Grammar and History, promoted by the Working Group on Indigenous Languages (GTLI) as a first meeting in the space between two regular meetings of the National Association of Research and Graduate Studies in Letters and Linguistics (ANPOLL). Sponsored by the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq), the Foundation for Improving Higher Education (CAPES), and the Departments of Culture and Social Welfare of the State of Pará, the meeting was assured by the Rector and the Administrator of the campus of the Federal University of Pará, who did not spare means for overcoming difficulties due to the critical moment lived by the federal universities of Brazil.

The meeting was attended by linguists from all the national institutions in which research on Indian languages is carried out: the Federal Universities of Alagoas, Amazonas, Brasília (UnB), Goiás, Pará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro/Museu Nacional, Rondônia, and Roraima, the State Universities of Campinas (UNICAMP) and São Paulo (USP), the Regional University of Joinville, the National Foundation of Indian Affairs and the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Researchers from other countries came from the Central University of Venezuela (Caracas), the Free University of Amsterdam and the Royal University of Leiden (Netherlands), the Universities of Bremen and Münster, and the Free University of Berlin (Germany), the Phonetic Institute of Paris, Center for the Study of American Indian Languages of Paris (CELIA), and the University of Lyon II (France), the University of Canterbury (New Zeeland), the Universities of Chicago, of Michigan East, and of Oregon (USA).

As a consequence of the world crisis and of the institutional crisis of the Brazilian universities, several researchers who had announced papers could not attend the meeting. Nevertheless seventy four papers were read and discussed, seven pannels were presented, one workshop on new technologies for fieldwork was offered, and six keynote speeches were delivered. Besides the workshop and the pannel session, there were nine sessions on morphology and syntax, one on phonology, five on historical linguistics, one on lexicography, one on endangered languages, one on linguistics and education, and a round-table on the ethics of the research with human beings.

This meeting was the first of such magnitude and one of its virtues was to make visible the amplitude and variety of the research on indigenous languages undertaken in Brazil, which are not quantitatively nor qualitatively limited to any institution in particular, nor directly dependent on the foreign educational and research centers whose cooperation has been very important but is not determinant for the development of linguistic research in this country.

In the meeting Professor Yonne de Freitas Leite (CNPq) was honored as the first Brazilian woman to become a researcher on Indian languages with her studies on the Tapirapé language and more recently on Araweté, as well as for her contribution to the training of other researchers and to the development of the linguistic profession. Yonne Leite delivered the first speech of the meeting in the opening session. The other keynote speakers were Lucy Seki (UNICAMP), Eric Hamp (professor emeritus of the University of Chicago), George N. Clements (director of the Phonetics Institute of Paris Sorbonne III), Lyle Campbell (University of Canterbury, New Zeeland), and Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues (Laboratory of Indigenous Languages of the University of Brasília). In the final session of the meeting, the organization of a Brazilian association of researchers on indigenous languages was proposed by Yonne Leite, who remarked that there is now a considerable number of linguists united by the same aim of promoting the scientific knowledge of such languages. All the participants applauded this proposal. Yonne Leite and Aryon Rodrigues with the support of GTLI will prepare the constitution of the new society.

Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson take the message to Kathmandu

B. K. Rana wrote on 8 Nov 2001 bk_rana(at)

The day before yesterday, ( November 6, 2001) there was a very illuminating talk programme on "Language issues and Language policy" organised by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Danish Government in Kathmandu. Prof. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (Finn) of University of Roskilde together with Prof. Robert Phillipson (British) presented their papers.

The programme was attended mostly by senior professors from different universities in Nepal. Prof. Tove mainly spoke on indigenous languages and their preservation. She was very much in favour of offering recognition to the indigenous languages at the national level. She believed that indigenous languages are endangered by killer languages like English and many others. In case of Nepal - Nepali is the killer language. So, priority should be given to preserving endangered languages by developing different curricula. Professor Phillipson said that the "MacDonaldization" of English has been a great challenge to the preservation of endangered languages. Hardly any of the preservation activists were indigenous people — an ironical situation.

Prof. Tove's paper entitled: "The future roles of indigenous languages for the world - from romantic rhetoric to realities: Applying the diversity and creativity arguments to education" may be found at

By and large the paper is very useful for indigenous people's linguistic human rights movement.

Resolution of the International Scientific Conference “Language And Culture” (Moscow, 14-17 September 2001)

On September 14-17, 2001, an International Conference “Language and Culture” was held in Moscow, in the building of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It was organized by the Literature and Language Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Foreign Languages and the Journal of Philology.

The Conference was attended by nearly 500 scholars and lecturers from 25 countries: Russia, the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, India, China, the Republic of South Africa, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Tadjikistan and Azerbaijan. The Conference programme included over 400 papers. The participants worked in 9 sections:
Theoretical Problems of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures
The National Linguistic Picture of the World
Problems of Cultural Studies
Literature and Art at the Turn of the Century: History and Prospects
Problems of Sociolinguistics and Psycholinguistics
Russian in Russia and Abroad
Problems of Studying European Languages
Problems of Translation and Lexicography
Problems of Educational Linguistics



There were four plenary meetings and two round table sessions:
Language and Writing
Debatable Problems of Philology.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the Conference participants a message of greetings, in which he pointed out that the study of cultural and linguistic relationships between nations is the key to comprehension of many political and social processes and an important element of mutual respect and understanding between peoples. The Conference also received a letter of greetings from Academician Yuri Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and from the President of the Foundation for Endangered Languages Nicholas Ostler (England).

The Conference revealed the scholars’ and lecturers’ intense interest in finding solutions to the topical issues of linguistics, literary and cultural studies, and educational linguistics. The papers presented at the Plenary sessions, Sectional meetings and the round tables provoked heated discussion.

The papers on linguistics themes addressed the most important issues of theoretical linguistics, including the latest achievements of cognitive linguistics, especially the problem of identifying linguistic and cultural concepts in different languages in order to describe the peculiarities of the national linguistic picture of the world as a manifestation of national mentality

Many papers focused on the problem of culture and language correlation which is currently discussed by the world scientific community and also on the problem of cross-cultural communication (dialogue of cultures).

An animated discussion was aroused by papers on sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics, largely because at the turn of the century the problems of world languages’ functioning, interaction of national languages and prospects for preservation of disappearing languages acquire particular importance.

There was a heated debate on a number of problems of the Russian language, including the use of Russian in the modern world, particularly in the CIS countries, and enlargement of the Russian vocabulary.

The Conference was presented a number of papers on the history and modern state of such foreign languages as English, German, French, Spanish, Slavonic and Asian languages.

A lively interest was also shown in the problem of applied linguistics, including translation of belles-lettres and business translation, which can be accounted for by the current tasks of cross-cultural communication and mutual enrichment with cultural values.

Besides, the participants discussed creation and use of modern types of dictionaries (electronic dictionaries, terminological databases).

Papers on literary studies dealt with historical poetics, comparative literary studies, world literature, specific features of national literatures and their typological community, and other important problems of modern literary science.

The dialogue of different schools of literary studies manifestly revealed a trend toward return to the Russian philological tradition which synthesizes the approaches of cultural, philosophical, linguistic and literary studies in the analysis of literary works.

The round table “Language and Writing” discussed two topical issues: “National Languages and National Alphabets” and “Written Language and Orthography”.

The round table participants devoted much of their attention to the proposed transfer of the Tatar language to the Roman alphabet. Having discussed the linguistic and cultural aspects of the problem, the participants came to the conclusion that it would be unadvisable to transfer Tatar to a system of writing based on the Roman alphabet.

The scholars also gave a negative assessment to attempts to prove the “progressiveness” of replacing Cyrillic with the Roman alphabet in Russian.

The Conference participants find it necessary that the Organizing Committee should apply to international and regional organizations and social, political and governmental bodies with the proposal that when introduction of a new system of writing in any language is being considered, scholars’ scientifically grounded recom-mendations should be taken into account.

Taking into consideration the ever important role played by the mass media, the Conference participants recommend scholars to take a more active part in forming public opinion on the above problem, which stirs up lively interest.

The participants in the round table “Language and Writing” had a spirited discussion of the proposed new Rules of Russian Orthography and Punctuation. Taking into account international and available Russian experience, the Conference deems it necessary to recommend the authors of this project to refine it, taking into consideration both positive and critical comments and the opinion of the scholars who warn against unnecessary haste in this work or put in question the advisability of any changes in the Russian spelling rules at the present time, when Russian society is not prepared to accept such changes.

Many speakers suggested that such conferences should be held on a regular basis, so that scholars from the Russian Academy of Sciences and from Russian and foreign higher educational establishments could meet to discuss interdisciplinary problems, moot points and new ideas. It would be advisable to hold the 2nd International Conference on these topics in 2003. The Organizing Committee should arrange for the publication of the most interesting and valuable scientific papers.

The International Scientific Conference “Language and Culture” was an important event in the life of the international scientific community.

Moscow, 17 September 2001

For further details, contact: Emma Volodarskaya id(at)