Foundation for Endangered Languages

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2. Development of the Foundation

FEL VI: Endangered Languages and the Literatures — Antigua Guatemala, 8-10 Aug 2002

This meeting was held in the Posada Belén, a beautiful colonial lodging-house, run by nuns, where Hermano Pedro de San José Betancur, a noted philanthropist, lived and worked in the 17th century. [As it turned out, he was the newest saint in the church in the week we visited, having been canonized during a visit of the Pope to Guatemala City on 30 July.] Just over 50 people attended, our usual catch, which is pretty much the maximum for people to mix and each hear everyone else’s talk, in the three days of our discussions.

In fact, people were with us for five days in all, beginning with the spectacular colours of Mayan weaving in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a nearby town, and staying on for two days after the academic sessions for a Mayan Poetry reading, to visit the ruins of Iximché (Pre-Hispanic capital of the Kaqchikel, whose language is still current in Antigua), and to hear Tz’utujil used in the classrooms at San Pedro de la Laguna, on the shore of the serene and limpid Lago de Atitlán.

The conference chair, who had laid all this on, was McKenna Brown, known to all for the duration as Don Roberto. He was aided particularly ably by Don Florencio Hipólito of Tecpán. Others who helped are listed in the proceedings volume, another Don Roberto production, which was available at the conference, and has sold well thereafter. (If you have not yet got your copy, check the back page of this Ogmios for how to get one.)

As can be inferred from the surrounding events, this conference was full of local colour -- colour being the operative word in Guatemala. For the first time, the conference was conducted bilingually in English and Spanish, with a series of able simultaneous interpreters (led by Don Roberto, as ever) who kept the minority group abreast of what was happening in the other language. This may have diminished acoustic clarity — and our chapel was never bell-like, even at the best of times — but it did wonders for solidarity.

The programme was as follows:

1. Strategies and Resources
Joel Sherzer, (Keynote )AILLA: Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America Monica Ward, The Pedagogical and Linguistic Issues Involved in Production of EL Materials: A Case Study of Nawat
J.E. Lonergan, A Tarahumara-English Computational Semantic Lexicon
2. Orthographies
Michael Brody, To the Letter: A Microanalysis of Currently Contested Graphemes in the Maya of Yucatan
Pamela Innes, I Can’t Read That Way of Writing:Linguistic and Indigenous Systems Clash in the Apache Language Revitalization Movement
3. Proverbs, Metaphor and Poetics
Chiroke Asogwa, Re-Kindling Interest in an Endangered Language: A Way Forward for Igbo Jule Gómez de García, Melissa Axelrod, and Jordan Lachler, “If You Play With Fire…”: Literary Production in Jicarilla Apache
Jocelyn Ahlers, Cognitive Metaphor in Language Revitalization
4. Endangered Languages Literatures and Education
Joseph Blythe Frances Kofod, Literatures for the Semi-Literate: Issues for Emerging Literacies in the Kimberly Region of North-Western Australia
Norman Thomson and Jepkorir Chepyator-Thomson, The Role of Educators as Biological, Cultural, and Language Exterminators: Teaching for Creativity, Measuring for Conformity 5. Strategies: Case Studies,
Alexis López, Using Storytelling in Schools to Preserve Endangered Languages Giovanna Micarelli and Hernán Gómez, On the Steps of Memory: Theater Anthropology as an Instrument for Cultural and Linguistic Revitalization in Indigenous Communities of the Colombian Amazon
Mary Morgan and Deepa Gurung, Languages Worth Writing: Endangered Languages of Nepal 6. Oral Literatures: Collection
V. Pérez Rivera (I. Kungiler), La experiencia de recopilar el conocimiento Kuna David R. Margolin, Marcela Carías, Suyapa Dilworth, and Carmen Palacios, The Symbolic Value of Oral Literature for the Revitalization of Tawahka
7. Oral Literatures: Diffusion
Andrew E. Liebermann, Jacinto de Paz Pérez, The Blossoming of Our Ancestors’ Words: Oral Tradition Collected and Published by Mayan Students
Nadine Grimm,Laura Martin, Strategies for Promoting Endangered Language Literatures Outside Their Local Communities
8. Mayan Literature
Janferie Stone, Maya Poetics: Renaissance in Continuity
María Luz García , Bajo la montaña: Women’s Stories of la violencia
Christopher Hadfield, A Tissue of Lies: History versus Myth in the Nature of Time

In the Open Forum, a number of more local presenters spoke, including (memorably for me)Jorge Miguel Cocom Pech, the author in Yucatec Maya of Mulkult’an In Nool (“Secrets of the Grandfather”).

Besides the variety of presenters who focused on Central America and Mexico, we were favoured by presenters from Kenya (Jepkorir Chepyator and her husband Norman Thomson), Nepal (Deepa Gurung, Finance Secretary of National Federation of Nationalities), and Australia’s Kimberley (Joe Blythe and Frances Kofod). Three presenters from Univ. Illinois (Alexis López, Giovanna Micarelli, Hernan Gómez) talked about minority languages in Colombia.

Minutes of the Seventh Annual General Meeting of the Foundation for Endangered Languages held at Posada Belen, Antigua, Guatemala, at noon, Friday 9 Aug 2002

The meeting was chaired by the President, Nicholas Ostler. No apologies for absence were noted.

1. The minutes of the 6th AGM, held at Agadir, Morocco, were summarized and approved.

2. Matters arising: there were no matters arising.

3. Treasurer's Report: Chris Moseley outlined the main sources of the Foundation's income: membership fees, donations, sales of Proceedings volumes. The Foundation spends its money mainly on grants, mailing costs to subscribers to `Ogmios', and the printing costs of its publications, plus the cost of holding conferences such as the present one. There are currently 104 paid-up members, the largest membership ever, but growth is slow. New gradations of membership had been introduced over the past subscription year. Grants had accounted for the majority of the Foundation's spending over the past year; ten applications out of an unusually large crop of high-quality submissions could be satisfied to some degree; it was gratifying to note that we were back on course financially after a couple of years of penury and inability to award them. Our last Conference, held so soon after the attacks of 11 September, had been a financial setback, but we have recovered from it, thanks partly to some generous donations. The bank balance at present is modest, at 249.78 pounds sterling in our British account, but that was due to recent expenditure on the present conference and grants. The treasurer offered himself for re-election, albeit reluctantly, and urged a wider distribution of tasks among the committee in future.

4. President's Report: Nicholas Ostler reiterated the Foundation's stated aims in turn and noted how we have measured up to each of them in the past year:
- Publicity: three issues of Ogmios had been published in the year. Sales of Proceedings continued apace, with more than 400 sold in the past two years. [Current total, including the first 150 copies of FEL VI, stands at 770.] We had also received some media publicity during the year.
- Support: the main evidence of this was the present conference.
- Monitoring: not much had been achieved in the past year, apart from the campaign for Gaelic run energetically in Scotland by Alasdair MacCaluim.
- Documentation: it had been a good year for grants, with every continent covered. However, in future we will have a serious competitor in funding documentation work, with the establishment of the chair run by the Rausing Fund at SOAS, London, and to complement rather than compete with this we would be well advised to focus on funding communities, not academic researchers, in future. We now have two new institutional members, AIATSIS (the Australian Government’s Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), and the Australian Linguistic Society.
- Collecting and disseminating information: the Foundation's web-site is growing in usefulness and popularity.

5. Election of Officers: the present Committee duly stood down. Six members of the present committee had notified the Secretary, Nigel Birch, of their willingness to stand for re-election. Five new candidates had offered themselves for election. In the interim, the present incumbents having stood down, Louanna Furbee took the chair and called for nominations. They were as follows:



Nicholas Ostler was nominated as President by Mary Morgan, seconded by Joe Blythe. Christopher Moseley was nominated as Treasurer by Monica Ward, seconded by Janferie Stone. Nigel Birch was nominated as Secretary by Nicholas Ostler, seconded by Christopher Hadfield. The incumbent committee members Patrick Williamson (Membership Secretary), Blair Rudes (Grants Officer), Louanna Furbee (Fund-raising Officer); and new nominees Christopher Hadfield, Joe Blythe, McKenna Brown, Colette Grinevald and Maurizio Gnerre were all nominated by Nicholas Ostler, seconded by Christopher Moseley.
Question from Kathleen Tacelosky: how were roles on the committee being redefined and rationalized. Nicholas Ostler replied that they were being reallocated at the committee's discretion; for instance, Membership Secretary Patrick Williamson now distributes the journal `Ogmios' to the membership.
The committee was duly elected unopposed, as the 11 members named above.

6. Nature of grants to be awarded: Nicholas Ostler sought the advice of the membership on this issue. This year we have given away 5000+ US dollars, a large sum by our standards. By contrast, the Rausing Fund in London will have 15 million pounds sterling, or 22 million dollars, to disburse over ten years. Nicholas Ostler proposed that our limited funds should in future go to community-based efforts. A discussion ensued:
Mary Morgan asked: would community applications be considered? Chris Moseley replied: yes, increasingly so in the future, in view of the SOAS/Rausing Fund.
Colette Grinevald mentioned the Volkswagen-Stiftung (15 million US dollars at its disposal), the Third Foundation (in Japan, for Pacific Rim languages), the UNESCO initiative for a Declaration on minority language rights. Nicholas Ostler replied that we make use of the funds that are under our control, and take note of these other bodies' work.
Colette Grinevald further asked: why so little money granted to each of so many applicants? Chris Moseley replied that it was an exceptional year for numbers of applicants. Daisy Rosenblum asked: are only academics considered as recipients? Nicholas Ostler replied that other funds (such as Rausing) aim to document records, usually held in academies; the VW foundation has restrictions on the technical media in use, and gives a few, large, grants.
Maurizio Gnerre expressed approval for small grants to many applicants, and urged that the recipients' recorded work be ensured for posterity. Chris Moseley replied that that is an undertaking made by the applicant in accepting a grant. Janferie Stone pointed out that people often get matching grants from different sources. Florencio Cali' Jiatz thanked the Foundation for its support for his Kaqchikel-speaking community.

7. Funding the Foundation: Louanna Furbee suggested preparing a catalogue of materials for display on the Web and elsewhere. We would approve projects to be funded, offer them to the public, and donors would become Friends or Supporters of FEL. A donor to a project (such as the Tojolabal literacy project), would be a "Friend of Tojolabal", for instance. The co-ordinator of a project would be funded to present it. Donors would receive progress reports on their project. Various kinds of sponsorship division are possible:
Master/Apprentice schemes, designated parts of a dictionary or grammar, and so on. But emphasis should be on grants. A shell web-site could build up a list of possible projects. This the Foundation's web-management would be more intensive than at present. Maurizio Gnerre commented that `adopt-a-people' is an idea he has proposed at his university, so the idea might work. Nicholas Ostler added that further discussion in committee is needed, for gradual development of the idea.

8. Next conference: Proposals are invited. We have a tentative invitation from Tapani Salminen in Finland for 2004, and need to ask if that still holds good. Joe Blythe had floated the idea of holding a conference in Broome, western Australia.
A vote of thanks was expressed to our current host, McKenna Brown, for organizing the present conference. It was proposed to publicize the next conference to EL communities.

9. Any other business: McKenna Brown recommended involving EL speakers more directly in FEL committee work. The meeting ended at approximately 1400 hours.

Christopher Moseley, Treasurer, acting on behalf of Nigel Birch, Secretary.

FEL Call for Proposals for 2003

The Foundation for Endangered Languages is now accepting proposals for projects of work that will support, enable or assist the documentation, protection or promotion of one or more endangered languages.

Please pass on this announcement to your friends and colleagues in endangered language communities who may not have access to Ogmios, the Internet or e-mail.

Form for Submissions
There is a form that defines the content of appropriate proposals, which is accessible at the Foundation's website:
It may also be obtained from
Blair A. Rudes, Department of English,
Univ. North Carolina at Charlotte,
9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001, USA.
fax +1-704-687-3961.

All proposals must be submitted in this form, to ensure comparability.

The time-limit for proposals in the current round will be 31 January 2003. By that date, proposals and supporting testimonials must reach Blair A. Rudes, at the address specified in the form.

The FEL Committee will announce its decision before the 31st of March 2003.

Three points to note especially. The second is new to this call.

1. The Foundation's funds are extremely limited and it is not anticipated that any award will be greater than US $1,000. Smaller proposals stand a better chance of funding. 2. Where possible, work undertaken within endangered language communities themselves will be preferred. 3. The Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL) is a separate from ELF, the Endangered Language Fund (, whose current call for proposals can be found in this same issue of Ogmios. It is perfectly possible (and has indeed occurred in the past) that the same project can be partially funded by both FEL and ELF.

Helena Drysdale — Mother Tongues: travels through tribal Europe - Special Offer

Paperback edition, published by Picador in October 2002 at £7.99, available at 12.50% reduction to FEL members.

Helena Drysdale, with her husband and two infant daughters, spent 18 months visiting Western Europe’s minority language communities. In their mobile home they travelled from Provence up to Samiland in the Arctic, down to Macedonia, and across to Brittany, via the Frisians, Ålanders, Alsatians, Basques, Catalans, Corsicans, Sardinians, Albanians, South Tyroleans and Ladin. The people they met on the way, and their views on their languages, are described in her book Mother Tongues, which was widely selected by British newspapers as Book of the Year.

One of them, the Sunday Times, wrote ‘This is a hugely ambitious project, a mix of anthropology, history, politics and travelogue, but Drysdale brings it off brilliantly.’ Helena is a member of FEL; her paper “Silenced or Liberated”, which rounded off our Agadir conference in 2001, discussed the role of the media in the different language communities she visited.

Readers of Ogmios are now offered copies of Mother Tongues at the reduced price of £6.99 (post free in Europe). £3 of this (less postage) goes to the Foundation for Endangered Languages. Members in Europe with a UK bank account should send a self-addressed envelope (big enough to hold a 11 by 18 cm book), and a cheque payable to Helena Drysdale, at 22 Stockwell Park Road, London SW9 OAJ, England.

Other members should apply (with credit card details and expiry date; or a US dollar check made out to “Nicholas Ostler”) to the Editor (address details on page 2). There will be a charge for (surface) postage and packing outside Europe,so that the total price will be £10 ($15 US) surface, £15 ($25 US) airmail.

Language Challenge: Correction with apology to Marc Dragon

In the last issue we noted Marc's achievement in teaching himself basic Tagalog, but we incorrectly stated his total collection for FEL: it actually came in at £31, over 50% more than what we said. Dinaramdam ko, Marc, and thanks again. Salamat.