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7. Reports on Meetings

First International Meeting of the Brazilian Working Group on Indigenous Languages (GTLI)

Ana Suelly Cabral (asacc(at) wrote on 5 Aug 2002:

This was held at the University of Parà in October 2001. As a consequence both of the world crisis and of the institutional crisis at Brazilian universities, several researchers who had announced papers could not attend the meeting. Attendees were especially saddened by the news of the death of Ken Hale, who had been invited to deliver a keynote address. Nevertheless 74 papers were read, 7 panels were presented, and a workshop on new technologies for fieldwork was offered. There were 9 sessions on morphology and syntax, one on phonology, 5 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.

Professor Yvonne de Freitas Leite (CNPq) was honored as the first Brazilian woman to become a researcher on Indian languages with her studies on the Tapirap language and more recently on Arawet, as well as for her contribution to the training of other researchers and to the development of the linguistic profession. Leite delivered the first speech of the meeting in the opening session. The other keynote speakers were Lucy Seki (UNICAMP), Eric Hamp (University of Chicago), George N. Clements (Phonetics Institute of Paris Sorbonne III), Lyle Campbell (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), and Aryon Dall'Igna Rodrigues (Laboratory of Indigenous Languages of the University of Braslia).

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 consti- tution of the new society.

The Proceedings of the meeting (Linguas Indigenas Brasileiras: Fonologia, Gramática e História, edited by Ana Suelly Arruda Cámara Cabral & Aryon Dall'Igna Rodrigues) have been published in two volumes by the Federal University of Parà Press, 2002. They are dedicated to the memory of the great linguist and humanist Ken Hale. To order in Brazil please call (61) 3072177 (Laboratory of Indigenous Languages, University of Brasilia). To order outside Brazil e-mail the editors: aryon(at), asacc(at)

President’s Travels: Australia and Guatemala

Under the sheltering, soaring, wings of a friend’s Cessna, whose shadow is seen above, your President and Editor was privileged this year to cross Australia from side to side, departing from Perth in Western Australia, reaching Broome on the northern coast of the Kimberley region, and then turning south via Alice Springs to reach New South Wales. The journey lasted eight days from 28 June, and among many sights — not all linguistic — we saw the Yamaji Language Centre in Geraldton (renewing a friendship with Doreen Mackman, last seen at FEL II, in Edinburgh in 1998); the Karijini National Park, which is a new museum in the midst of the wilderness — no problem if you come by plane — full of exhibits of Banyjima, Kurrama and Yinhawangka peoples, their languages recorded, situated and displayed (often through the good offices of Alan Dench); a Sunday service at Bidyadanga with hymns in Karajarri, Mangala, Nyangumarta, Juwaliny and Yulparija (meeting the local linguist Janet Sharpe and passing the local school, which as the picture shows, is just as multilingual - and Janet tells me that the languages occur in that order);

Broome, where we met the indefatigable describers of Walmajarri, Joyce Hudson and Eirlys Richards, and the equally indomitable volunteers to host this year’s FEL meeting, Joe Blythe and Mary Anne Taylor, (Joe being an expert on Kija, and Mary Anne, his wife, having grown up with Kriol and Jaru). We flew on to see home-developed Macintosh-based learning programmes for Nyikina (as well as some fire-side spear straightening) at the school in Yakanarra, and then we were at Kimberley Language Resource Centre of Hall’s Creek, where I could pig out on a selection of their grammars, dictionaries and recordings of the surrounding 46 languages of 5 families.



The voyage continued: on to Yuendumu, one of the strongest Warlpiri communities (and home of the Aboriginal comedy video Bush Mechanics, which has taken much of Australia by storm, full of original ideas on how to keep your car going with what you can find in the desert, if you’re not too particular), and Alice Springs, with its Institute for Aboriginal Development: there I met the redoubtable greybeard, Gavan Breen, who has described as many moribund languages as any man alive.

I hope that in a later issue of Ogmios, I can either tell more of the rich cornucopia of language people and language events that I was able to see in my six weeks in Australia, or better still prevail on the some of the authors of the events to submit their own reports. It struck me when Professor Andy Pawley was showing me round Pacific Linguistics, a publishing house at the RSPAS at Australian National University in Canberra, that Australia in our generation has a commanding position in access to the feedstocks of linguistics: it is the place to go if if you are interested in languages not only of Australia itself, but also of Indonesia, Papua and the Pacific: in all, at least a third of the world’s surviving languages. As such, my bet is that it will be the source too of the best-informed, and ultimately most significant, linguistic theories of our time.

In one way, for the Foundation, the high point of my stay was at the Business Meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society, held at Macquarie University in mid July 2002: at the instance of their President, Prof Michael Walsh, the Society voted to become an institutional member of the Foundation, and so became the first national linguistic society to do so. Thank you all very much! Pathbreakers as ever.

Although the fascinations in no way ceased after Alice Springs, the sights that dazzled me became less focused on languages, or at least less exclusively on endangered languages of Australia, and so [spatiis exclusus iniquis] I will skip them. Ultimately, I was on my way to our conference in Antigua Guatemala, FEL VI, which is described elsewhere in this issue.

Guatemala, of course, is a fascinating place linguistically in its own right, with N distinct Mayan languages spoken at varying strengths, as well as the creole Garifuna spoken in Livingston on the Caribbean coast. Through the good offices of our Committee member Colette Grinevald, I was able to visite the research centre OKMA (which represents the very Mayan title Oxlajuuj Keej Maya’ Ajtz’iib “Mayan Writers of 13 Deer” — I interpret this as an auspicious date) which is producing a series of grammars and dictionaries of the languages, and met its director Pedro García Matzar.

In the course of the tour after the FEL conference, our group visited Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (specifically, the branch for Tz’utujil, which is based in San Pedro de la Laguna, on lake Atitlán) and talked to the scholars who work there, led by their president Domingo Sosa López. They focus on pedagogy, and we were able to buy some of their books, which in their beautiful bindings are even now reminding me not to neglect the language of this almost celestially beautiful part of the world.

Some references:

Doreen Mackman
Yamaji Language Centre
22 Sanford Street, PO Box 433, Geraldton, WA 6531 Australia

Edgar Price, KLRC Co-ordinator
Kimberley Language Resource Centre
PMB 11, Halls Creek WA 6770 Australia
Fax: +61-8 9168-6023

Domingo Sosa López
Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala
Comunidad Lingüística Tz’utujil
San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala
tel. 205-8301, 712-6441, 772-1008

Pedro García Matzar
OKMA - Investigaciones Lingüísticas
1a. Avenida sur No. 4
La Antigua Guatemala
tel. /fax 832-0074