Foundation for Endangered Languages
2. Development of the Foundation
2007 FEL grant recipients announced
The judging committee for the 2007 round of grants, presided over by our Grants Officer Hakim Elnazarov, has announced the list of suc-cessful applicants for the Foundation’s Grants. We’re pleased to an-nounce the names of the successful applicants here, representing a wide variety of projects around the world. Altogether we decided to award funds to ten applicants whose work appeared to most benefit the speaker communities which are the focus of their research. They are as follows, with awards quoted in US dollars:
This year we had a good response to our call for applica-tions and a good field of applicants. We warmly congratu-late the successful applicants and wish them continued success in their language revitalisation and documenta-tion work.
But our pleasure at being able to make this announce-ment has been tempered with sadness. Just after we made our selection, we received the sad news of the death of our most academically distinguished recipient, Professor Jørgen Rischel of Copenhagen, Denmark. Pro-fessor Rischel had intended to carry out a project among the Mlabri speakers of Thailand, developing a Mlabri-Thai-English dictionary for practical use. His interests were wide-ranging, and as the obituary posted below on the Linguist List shows, he is a great loss to linguistics.
15 May 2007
Christopher Moseley, Treasurer
Eleventh FEL Conference, Kuala Lumpur 2007
Eleventh Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, in collaboration with the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malay-sia:
Globalisation has an impact on societies on various levels. One of its implications is the further endangerment of languages, especially those of minority communities. The looming threat of language loss and death is due to the hegemony of more dominant languages in sociopolitical and economic domains. Linguists therefore have an important role in documenting, projecting, and providing information on, languages which face extinction.
Linguists undertaking such research must tread carefully in any com-munity which faces language endangerment. The researcher by his or her very presence can disturb the established social relations, the socio-economic organisation, and the power relations within a com-munity, bringing in more globalisation, and more awareness of and exchange with the outside world. Researchers must be made aware of the impact of their presence.
Communities facing language endangerment may not be cooperative towards outsiders and may view them with suspicion. In some com-munities breaking such barriers requires tact, effort, and strategic planning. Members of the community facing endangerment should be perceived and treated by the researchers as experts in their heritage language. Such a view inevitably reduces the power inequality be-tween researchers and members of the endangered language and eases collaboration. Cooperation and collaboration may be impeded if the linguist sees him/herself or is seen as someone who is more authorita-tive and linguistically more ‘correct’ than members of the community facing endangerment. Such a perception may result in the infamous observer’s paradox where subjects become less natural in the presence of the researcher. When researchers do not take members of the studied communities seriously, collaborative work is impeded as the input provided may be distorted due to the researchers’ belief that they are the language ex-perts. Linguists must be objective and this can be a challenge as prior knowledge may interfere in their objectivity. Lack of trust and col-laboration may result in information not being provided. One way of combating the failure to share information is to ensure that researchers are aware that different members of the community facing language shift are responsible for different kinds of information.
If communities are informed of the dangers of losing their languages, they may be inclined to collaborate with the linguists to provide information of the language they speak as on them is entrusted the onus of transmitting their heritage to family members. Promoting the popularity of an endangered language in domains such as the workplace, at home and at school may prove to be difficult, as endangered languages face many obstacles namely from the economic functionalities of more dominant languages and the attitudes of younger speakers. At worst, linguists could be seen as counter-productive by the very community whose language they want to save, because the shift away from an endangered language is at times motivated by upward economic and social mobility.
The task of the linguist in this is by no means simple. To penetrate and immerse oneself in an ethnolinguistic speech community whose language may be on the verge of death provides the linguist many challenges on the social and relationship levels. While the linguist is required to collect data as a researcher, s/he must also form a relationship with the members of the community so as to collaborate with them in efforts to promote and preserve the language, in ensuring its revival, in establishing devices and procedures to stop endangerment etc. Given that the endangerment of languages can be handled sensitively through collaboration between researchers and members of a community facing language extinction, this Conference will address the research challenges and social impacts of such collaborations. Amongst the questions raised in this Conference are:
Abstract and Paper Submission Protocols
In order to present a paper at the Conference, writers must submit in advance an abstract of not more than 500 words before 15 May 2007. After this deadline, abstracts will not be accepted. Abstracts submitted, which should be in English, must include the following details:
The abstracts should be sent via e-mail to waninda2001 at um.edu.my and fel at chibcha.demon.co.uk with the subject of the e-mail stating: “FEL Abstract: : The name of the first author will be used in all correspondence. Writers will be informed once their abstracts have been accepted and they will be required to submit their full papers for publication in the proceedings before 1 September 2007 together with their registration fee. Failure to do so will result in the disqualification of the writers to present their papers. Once accepted, full papers can be submitted in English or Malay. Each standard presentation at the Conference will last twenty minutes, with a further ten minutes for discussion and questions and answers. Plenary lectures will last forty-five minutes each; these are awarded by invitation only.
The site for the 2007 conference of the Foundation of Endangered Languages, hosted jointly this year with SKET, University of Malaya, will be Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
University of Malaya is the oldest university in Malaysia, and SKET is responsible for 80 co-curricular courses, including “Ethnic Relations.” (http:// www. um.edu.my). The Foundation for Endangered Languages is a non-profit organization, registered as Charity 1070616 in England and Wales, founded in 1996. It exists to support, enable and assist the documentation, protection and promotion of endangered languages. (http://www. ogmios.org). Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, in an enclave within the state of Selangor. Besides the Malay peninsula Malaysia includes the Sarawak and Sabah regions of Borneo. It has 140 indigenous languages. The indigenous people of Malaya, the orang asli, numbered 105,000 in 1997, 0.5 per cent of the nation's population. By contrast in 1990 there were 900,000 indigenous people in Sabah, and 1.7 million in Sarawak. As the country's largest city, K.L. hosts spectacular modern buildings, notably the Petronas Twin Towers, and most recently, the ‘Eye of Malaysia’ Ferris wheel. K.L.'s best-preserved colonial buildings are mostly in Merdeka Square, and its Chinatown is also famous. The Batu Caves, 272 steps below ground, house the Hindu Lord Muruga. K.L.'s climate is equatorial: warm, sunny and often wet, year-round.