Foundation for Endangered Languages

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1. Development of the Foundation

FEL Grants 2005

This year’s Grants round saw a great increase in the number of successful applications and a major increase in the amount of money we could give out. We have been able to fund 14 out of 41 applications, well over double what we managed to offer last year (6 out of 41). We have also been able to increase the size of our awards.

Here are the successful applicants, with the languages that they are supporting, and where the languages are spoken. Congratulations!

Alan Yu (Washo – Dresslerville NV, USA) receives US$1,500 to document the Washo language and create a searchable and web-accessible digital database of Washo textual materials. Washo is one of the most critically endangered and least documented languages of North America. The Washo language is now used only by approximately 13-20 elderly speakers who live in several townships near the California-Nevada border southeast of Lake Tahoe.

Rafael Nonato (Bororo – Mato Grosso, Brazil) receives US$1,472 to develop tools of preservation for the Bororo language. Bororo is a South American Indigenous language with less than 700 speakers living in 5 villages near the city of Rondonópolis, State of Mato Grosso, Brazil. It is the last living language of the Bororoan family.

Carme Junyent (Mandinka – Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau) receives US$1500 to develop a grammar-lexicon-corpus (teaching materials) of the Mandinka of Kaabu. The proposed research consists of a documentation work on the Mandinka of Kaabu language. This is a language that is going through an accelerating process of endangerment, due to the pressure of former colonial languages and other expanding neighbouring languages, and to massive migrations that are leaving from the traditional Mandinka territories (specially in Casamance, Senegal). The main objective is to develop teaching materials to help literacy schemas both in the historical Mandinka territories (where no literacy in Mandinka has been provided) and among the migrant Mandinka communities in western societies (namely in Catalonia, at this stage of the project).

Lindsay Jones (Owens Valley Paitute, Paka’anil, Yowlumni, Wukchumni, Western Mono – California) receives US$1,000 to provide Shoebox training for community members. The Nüümü Yadoha Language Program, part of the Owens Valley Career Development Center in California, is currently working with teams from six different California American Indian language communities. Team members generally have no background in linguistics, no tools for keeping track of new words, and no clear ideas about how to gather or work with longer texts from their fluent speakers (such as stories). Shoebox is a computer program designed by the Summer Institute of Linguistics that works as a dictionary database program and also a tool for analyzing texts.

Martin Hilpert (Pite-Saami – Nothern Sweeden, Norway) receives US$750 to develop learners’ materials. This project is an initial field trip to the Arvidsjaur region around the Swedish-Norwegian border. The investigated language is Pite-Saami, a Southern Lappish language. The Ethnologue website lists Pite-Saami among seven European languages that are nearly extinct and estimates the number of speakers to be 50 or fewer. His contact in Arvidsjaur estimates that there are 15 speakers in the region.

Atindogbe Gualbert – (Barombi – Cameroun) receives US$1,430 to provide a linguistic description of the Barombi language: phonology, alphabet, orthographic rules, morphology, syntax and tonology. Barombi (Lombi, Lambi, Rombi, Rambi, Lombe) is a narrow Bantu language, designated as A40 within the Basaa-Beti group in Guthrie’s (1948) referential classification of Bantu languages. The people who speak the language are called the “Barombi”, the prefixe “ba-“ being the mark of plurality. They constitute a minority tribe, living in the South West Province of Cameroon.

Irina Nikolaeva (Tundra Yukaghir and Kolyma Yukaghir – Siberia) receives US$1,301 for the lexicographic documentation of Yukaghir. The modern Yukaghirs inhabit the extreme North-East of Siberia and constitute one of the smallest ethnic groups in Russia. At present there are two Yukaghir languages, Tundra Yukaghir (about 150 speakers) and Kolyma Yukaghir (about 50 speakers), but these figures are rapidly decreasing. Kolyma Yukaghir especially is on the verge of extinction, since the transmission of the language from parent to children has stopped. The two languages are closely related, but demonstrate considerable differences in their lexicon, to the extent that mutual understanding is impossible.

Erin Haynes (Wasco – Oregon, USA) receives US$650 for the transcription of recorded language materials. There are only two remaining native speakers of Wasco, a central Oregon language that is now situated on the Warm Springs reservation. The Wasco tribe is in possession of almost 300 audiotapes of Wasco speech, much of it informal conversation. These tapes have not been inventoried nor transcribed, and the danger is that the information on them will eventually be lost.

Rik van Gijn (Yurakaré – Central Bolivia) receives US$1,000 for the production of a dictionary: Yurakaré-Spanish, Spanish- Yurakaré. The aim of this project is to produce and distribute a dictionary Yurakaré-Spanish, Spanish-Yurakaré. Yurakaré is spoken by ca. 2500 speakers in central Bolivia. It is in danger of becoming extinct, since the language is no longer transmitted to the youngest generations.

Midori Minami (Ainu – Japan) receives US$864 for the language and identity in Hokkaido, Japan. The Ainu, indigenous people of northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, and also of Sakhalin and Kurile, are both physically and culturally distinct from the Japanese. Linguists have not conclusively related Ainu genetically with any other languages. The aims of the work are to document and analyse the current situation of Ainu, and also support an Ainu language school, which was built by young generations who attempt to revive their language.

Ruth Singer (Mawng – Goulburn Island, NT Australia) receives US$1,000 for the Mawng video texts project. Mawng is a non-Pama-Nyungan Australian Aboriginal language spoken in Northwest Arnhem land, Northern Territory, Australia. For around 500 people, Mawng is the main language used on a daily basis and it is estimated that another 500 people have some ability in Mawng as a second language. Mawng is still being acquired by children. The main activity for this project is to record elders telling traditional myths and post-contact histories. The stories will be recorded on video and distributed using DVDs.

Ronald Kephart (French Creole – Eastern Caribbean) receives US$1,000 for documenting French Creole on Carriacou, Grenada. He will continue locating and recording elderly speakers of French Creole on the island of Carriacou, Grenada. Field research in 2003 showed that this dialect of French Creole varies in some ways from those spoken on nearby islands (St. Lucia etc.). In the past, documentation has been done mostly by non-linguists (folklorists, musicologists). Thus, linguistic investigation of this language constitutes a potentially important contribution to the ethnographic and ethnolinguistic record. The presence of French Creole on Carriacou dates to French settlement in the late 17th century.

Jesus Pedraza (Chocholteco – Oaxaca, Mexico) receives US$1,000 for revitalizing Santa Maria Nativitas Chocholteco by training a native speaker in computer literacy and supporting the writing of his book on community oral traditions. Chocholteco or Ngigua is an Oto-Manguean language belonging to the Popolocan family. It is spoken in the northwestern part of the State of Oaxaca, central Mexico: there are no more than 60 native speakers left in a population of some 700. The project consists in offering 12 weeks of training to a Chocholteco, Mr Vicente Jiménez, a bilingual teacher from Santa Maria Nativitas. Mr Jiménez will be trained by Mr Jesús Salinas at in the CELIAC facilities in Oaxaca, and will be materially and technically supported throughout the writing of his book on native myths.

Silverio Audiffred (Nahuatl – Milpa Alta, Mexico) receives US$1,000 to use new technologies and the arts as a tool for Language Revitalisation in the Nahua Community of Milpa Alta. In the entire town of Milpa Alta, Nahuatl has no official or ceremonial purpose and as an outsider no-one ever hears it in the street or at home. This is really alarming for according to the Elders from the community, the language was widely used there as late as the 1950s. By using Stop-Animation and the New Technologies I propose to recreate traditional stories, songs and poems from Milpa Alta to be used as teaching material by Native language instructors.

The incidence of FEL Grants since their inception in 1997 is illustrated on the front cover of this Ogmios.

FEL IX - "Creating Outsiders: Endangered Languages, Migration and Marginalization"- Stellenbosch, S. Africa, 18-20 Nov. 2005

Today's world-maps, political and linguistic, were laid out through human population movements, some ancient but some of them very recent. In this year's conference we want to address the effects of these movements on language communities: how they dissolve communities, and change their status; how communities may re-form in foreign places, and the relations between incomers and the established populations, whichever has the upper hand; the impact of empires, deportation, mass immigration, population loss from emigration. Remembered migration histories may be relevant to the modern self-image of communities. Internal migration by dominant-language speakers into the territories of minorities may lead to the marginalization of others /in situ/; and minorities often decamp to the dominant centres under various pressures.

The UN has declared a second International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The languages we talk about will be very varied, and likely to include the languages of communities all over the world. Some of them are spoken by indigenous communities, which have become a minority on their own original territory due to the immigration of a dominant majority group. This kind of marginalization is very common, and notable examples include the San languages in South Africa, the Ainu language in Japan and many pre-Hispanic languages in California. It plays a major role in the current civil disorder in Nepal. In some cases, endangered languages may have gone into their own world-wide diapora: such is the case of Plautdietsch, language of the Mennonites, who emigrated to many places (Siberia, Canada, Mexico, Paraguay), where often their language became marginalised.

Marginalization can, however, result from a variety of causes: a state policy of forced assimilation, military domination, religious conversion, the wish for social betterment, attendance at boarding schools, etc. We shall look at how both the State and communities can address the causes of marginalization, and of course its effects on the survival and development of languages.

Besides the international dimension, this year's location in South Africa will give members an opportunity to get acquainted with many of the local linguistic issues, among them the position of Khoe and San, the past and future of Afrikaans, but also the Makhuwa-speaking ex-slaves from Durban, the Phuthi speakers from Eastern Cape, and no doubt many others.

Issues that may arise include:

· Why are migration histories so treasured as sources of language identity?

· Do language-communities always (or ever) have better prospects of survival in their home territories than when transplanted?

· Can language-communities on their home ground and in diaspora give each other effective support?

· Can small language-communities create new identities in remote territories?

· Can new communities resulting from migration or deportation establish a new quasi-indigenous identity based on a shared language?

· What is the value of cultural resources for maintenance of status and active language use within endangered language communities?

· Do technical media have a significant role in combatting or reinforcing marginalization?

· Is it possible to reconcile the recognition of official languages with respect for a much larger number of indigenous languages?

· Can minority and even endangered languages play an active role in a state’s policy of multilingualism?

Local Site: The University of Stellenbosch is in South Africa's Western Cape, close to Cape Town. It has had a Department of African Languages for more than half a century (

Conference Chair: Nigel Crawhall crawhall(at)

Important Dates

Abstract arrival deadlines - 24 April 2005 (e-mail); 1 May 2005 (by post) · Committee's decision 15 May 2005 · In case of acceptance, the full paper should be sent by 31 Aug 2005. (Further details on the format of text will be specified to the authors)