Foundation for Endangered Languages

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2. Development of the Foundation

FEL Grants 2004

For reasons that still elude us — but must have a lot to do with your generosity, and an increasing interest round the world in our publications — we find ourselves once again with more money to give away than ever before: 3,500 pounds sterling this year. And this before we undertake our serious fund-raising. (We can also thank the current weakness of the US dollar, which makes our sterling go a lot farther.) The future looks promising, if all of us can keep up this momentum.

Even so, we were able to give only 6 grants. They were chosen this year from a field of 41 applications, almost all of them highly deserving of support. It is still much too difficult to win one of our awards. We shall go on striving to improve matters, but as before, we are in your hands.

Most people will receive with this Ogmios a plea to renew your membership in FEL: please take the opportunity to do so. Subscriptions to us in the UK are already covered by GiftAid, if UK tax payers wish to ask for this. We are not yet tax-deductible in the USA; but our application is in with the Internal Revenue Service, and we hope to achieve this before the end of this year.

Here then are the lucky people, and the languages they want to foster.
Alejandra Vidal (Pilagá)
receives US$1,580 to compile a first pedagogical grammar, and a brief collection of texts, in the Pilagá language of north-eastern Argentina, which has about 4,000 speakers.
Jim Ellis (Talaabog)
receives US$1,000 to publish an updated Carolinian/Talaabog-English dictionary and create reading materials for public school Talaabog classes. Talaabog is a minority language in the Pacific island of Saipan, closely related to Carolinian, with fewer than a hundred speakers. Andrei Filtchenko (Vasyugan Khanty)
receives US$920 to document the language and cultural heritage of the Vasyugan Khanty of eastern Siberia. There are fewer than 100 speakers of the language, all over 50. Daniela Croco de Oliveira (Sowaintê)
receives US$1,300 to collect data on the Sowaintê language of Rondonia, Brazil, which is in the Nambikwara family, and was thought to be extinct. Work will be undertaken with the last known speaker, a married woman about 55 years old. Mageret Okon (Kiong)
receives US$961 to describe the phonology of Kiong, a Korop language spoken by fewer than 1,000 in Okoyong in Cross River State, S.E. Nigeria. This is to be a first step towards writing a grammar of the language.
Bidisha Som (Great Andamanese)
receives US$609 to document the lexicon of Great Andamanese, together with a grammatical sketch. The language has approximately 36 speakers left, and is spoken on the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal.



These grants are spread over languages in three continents (S. America, Asia, Africa) and islands in two oceans (Pacific and and Indian). They are an earnest of the Foundation's commitment to languages all over the world.

This year FEL is returning to its European roots. After four years ranging over the Americas, North Africa and Australia, we shall be meeting in Barcelona, the capital of Europe’s most populous non-national language community, and a global byword for style and elegance. Our content too will have a more European tinge: some 35% of the presentations focus on European minority languages, and their issues. This year, for the first time, we shall have posters as well as presentations– perhaps a reminder of how distinctively literate almost every minority language in Europe is. As a result, with close to 50 contributions drawn from every continent under sun, there is shaping up a riot of linguistic colour, something else for which Europe is all too famous, in many senses.

The theme for this year is On the Margins of Nations: Endangered Languages and Linguistic Rights. Many minority languages are poised on the edge of different majority communities; the terms of debate of minority and majority are being re-defined in the present era of global powers and communications; and there is an inevitable interplay between centres of government and the initiatives coming up from local communities. Keynote speakers will be flying in from the Basque Country (Patxi Goenaga), from California (Leanne Hinton), and from Siberia via Fryslân on the North Sea (Tjeerd de Graaf).

The conference proper runs from 1 to 3 October, but there are also unique opportunities before and after to visit curiosities in this corner of Europe. On 29-30 September we shall visit the Val d’Aran, across the Pyrenees, where Catalunya administers a region that speaks not Catalan (nor Spanish, French or Basque!) but Occitan. And on 4 October we shall be in Perpinyà in Llenguadoc-Rousillon, where Catalan is still (and increasingly) spoken within France.

Full details of the conference — and a fair swathe of Catalan’s history (we are benefiting richly from the learning of our conference chair, Joan Albert Argenter, the holder of the UNESCO Chair on Languages and Education in Barcelona) — will soon be available at our web-site In the meantime, a good contact to get details is Joan Moles JMoles(at), with postal address : Càtedra UNESCO de Llengües I Educació, 8th FEL, Institut de Estudis Catalans, Carrer de Carme 47, E-08001 Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.