Foundation for Endangered Languages
2. Development of the Foundation
30th September 1996 at 10 Bears Hedge, Iffley, Oxford
Present: Christopher Moseley, Daniel Nettle (Treasurer), Nicholas Ostler (Chair), Mahendra Verma, Andrew Woodfield (Secretary).
1. Minutes of last meeting (4th July 1996) were approved. Minutes of AGM had been circulated to all members via the newsletter Iatiku 3. No objections had been received. These were duly approved and signed.
AW asked DN to provide an interim balance sheet showing income and expenditure since the account was opened. This is to send to the Charity Commission.
DN handed out the latest list of members. The number stood at 62.
(ii) Next steps for registering with Charity Commission
(iii) Update on Brazil
3. Search for new treasurer
It was agreed that the job of handling members_subscriptions should be separated from that of Hon Treasurer which is primarily concerned with financial management. MV volunteered to be Membership Secretary. His offer was gratefully accepted.
4. Publicity and Membership Recruitment
5. Hosting the first FEL Conference
6. Questionnaire for Grant Applicants
A researcher going to Guyana in January to study two native languages has asked NO for advice. DN offered to put her in touch with researchers there.
Iatiku 4 copy deadline is the end of October, for issue in mid-November. (!!! - Ed.)
8. Date of next meeting
7th December 1996 at Batheaston Villa, Bath .
Present: Nicholas Ostler (Chair), Andrew Woodfield (Sec), Christopher Moseley, Mahendra Verma.
Apologies: Daniel Nettle
3. Appointment of New Treasurer:
MV reported that he had talked with someone in York who might be persuaded to take on the job, although he was not a member. This person is Deputy Auditor of York City Council and thus may be presumed to have a good knowledge of accounting. It was decided that these facts should be conveyed to the General Meeting where a decision would be taken about how to proceed.
4. Split of Duties -
A letter had been received from Sara Davies (BBC producer) saying that her proposal for a series had not been given the go-ahead.
CM suggested that Allan Wynne Jones might be asked to keep us informed of relevant EC projects and initiatives.
6. Charitable Status:
7. Ideas for the Logo:
9. Fund Raising:
10. Plans for 1997 and 1998 AGMs and Conferences were not discussed, for lack of time. The meeting was adjourned.
7th December 1996 at Batheaston Villa, Bath
Present: Nicholas Ostler (Chair), Andrew Woodfield (Sec), Christopher Moseley, Mahendra Verma, Willem Adelaar, Greville Corbett, Gary Morgan, Roger Blench, Darrell Posey (visitor)
Apologies: Daniel Nettle, Marilyn Martin-Jones, Frances Morphy, Anna Siewierska, Oliver Dow, James Higginbotham, Russell Norton, Bob Robins, Clinton Robinson, Ian Roberts, David Crystal.
1. Minutes of AGM and Matters Arising:
2. Election of New Treasurer:
At the Executive Committee meeting MV had mentioned another possible candidate, highly qualified in accountancy, who was in fact Deputy Auditor of York City Council. This man had not agreed to stand, however, and was not a member of FEL. In the background was Karen Corrigan, a member who was willing to be Hon. Treasurer starting from September 1997 but unwilling to step in immediately.
AW proposed that MV should take over as Acting Treasurer until the next AGM in July, when another election would be held, and that MV might take advantage of the willingness and expertise of the York Deputy Auditor when he prepared the Foundation_s first annual financial report. MV said he would be prepared to do this on the understanding that it was a temporary stop-gap.
NO made an alternative proposal: that a postal ballot of members be held at the beginning of January, the candidate(s) being Oliver Dow and possibly others, such as the Deputy Auditor from York; that the result of this ballot be announced at the end of January; and that MV be the Acting Treasurer until a full-time Treasurer is elected.
RB proposed, and GC seconded, NO_s proposal. There were 6 votes in favour, 1 against, and 1 abstention. The Chairman_s proposal was therefore carried. Because the Secretary would be soon be going to India for 4 weeks, NO undertook to make the arrangements for ballotting members and bringing the matter to a satisfactory resolution. MV was declared Acting Treasurer pro tem. Steps will be taken as soon as practicable to empower MV to co-sign the Foundation's cheques.
3. Exhibition Project:
Several other ideas emerged from the discussion. Other projects connected to year 2000 could be latched on to. GM mentioned the Bristol 2000 project. The Deaf Studies Centre at Bristol University was seeking representation within it.
CM offered to ask the National Sound Archive what material they had available. RB mentioned some early recordings of endangered languages that he had deposited with the NSA. The Museum of Mankind was another source and possible venue. It would be necessary to ask institutions how far ahead they are booked.
It was agreed that NO would send members a questionnaire about their areas of expertise and relevant materials in their possession, with an eye to compiling a data-base of exhibitables. RB suggested that information about members could be placed on the web-page. This would be useful to media organizations, like the BBC, who needed to locate interviewees. NO expressed reservations about putting members_ personal data on the Internet. It was suggested that members could be asked first if they were willing to let their data appear there.
Organizations with similar aims might wish to pool their efforts with FEL. An item about exhibits should appear in the next Iatiku. GC thought that a small _dry run_ exhibit could be mounted at the LAGB meetings, held twice a year.
4. Speakers for 1997 AGM/Conference:
5. Encouraging Fieldwork and Research:
6. Membership Drive:
The meeting ended at 4.15 p.m. After a short break for tea, there were presentations by Greville Corbett and Darrell Posey. The speakers delivered shortened versions of their contributions to a recent symposium on biological, cultural and linguistic diversity, which had taken place at UC Berkeley.
Abstract of Greville Corbett's "Language endangerment: a linguist's perspective"
Linguistic & International Studies, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH, UK g.corbett(at)surrey.ac.uk
Linguists are making increasingly detailed and sophisticated claims about the interrelations of linguistic constructions and of linguistic categories. Research of this type raises the question of the range of data required.
Although at first sight the availability (in principle) of over 6000 languages might appear wholly adequate, this is not straightforwardly the case. On the one hand, the same features may appear in different languages because they are genetically related; in fact, many languages form large families (Niger-Kordofanian has over 1000 members and Austronesian over 900), which drastically reduces the number of sources of data which are undeniably different. On the other hand, the areal spread of features means that even genetically unrelated languages may share features from a single source. These problems, made more acute by the rapid loss of languages, are only just beginning to be appreciated by those who should be most aware of them, namely linguists.
Examples are given of particularly interesting features which have been found in languages that happen to be endangered, to give some idea of the seriousness of their loss for linguists. Illustrations are taken from the categories of gender and number, and from the study of colour term systems.
It is concluded that while the paper considers first the interests of linguists, the importance of a deeper understanding of natural language for progress in other areas, theoretical and practical, is such as to make the concern about language endangerment one of wider significance.
Conclusion of Darrell Posey's "Biological and Cultural Diversity - the Inextricable Linked by Language and Politics"
Oxford Centre for Environment, Ethics & Society, Mansfield College, Oxford OX1 3TF, UK posey(at)vax.ox.ac.uk
Indigenous peoples are critical to sustainability because their diverse, locally-adapted strategies for natural resource management are based upon ancient, intimate, and intricate knowledge of flora, fauna, soils, water cycles, climate, and micro-environmental variations. Their use and conservation of the environment are inextricably linked to their daily activities and survival, not only of present, but future, generations. Indeed, many presumed "natural landscapes" are, in fact, ecological systems moulded and maintained by indigenous management practices,
Indigenous peoples are not insignificant isolated groups that have little to do with the future of the Planet. On the contrary, there are over 250 million indigenous peoples, speaking 4,000 to 5,000 languages, and who are active stewards of some of the most biologically and ecologically rich regions of the world. As much as 19% of the earth's surface is still under indigenous control or management.
Indigenous peoples are on the firing line for all of humanity. Their concerns are the same as all of us who fear loss of local autonomy, community control, distant decision-making, disregard for local priorities or needs, erosion of traditional knowledge, increasing commoditisation of common resources, and loss of biological and cultural diversity. These are problems that confront communities in every comer of the Earth.
Indigenous peoples have holistic views that link environmental sustainability directly with individual health and community well-being, They remind us that it is not just the diversity of life that provides the cornerstone for sustainability--but also the knowledge of that diversity enshrined in the laws, sciences, religions, rituals, and ceremonies of human societies. In other words, there is an inextricable link between environmental and cultural diversity. When the diversity of knowledge about flora, fauna and micro-climatic conditions is lost, then essentially the richness of biodiversity is degraded because the processes that have evolved to conserve and utilise those resources are lost.
It is language that links cultural knowledge to environmental practice. Without language, Indigenous concepts of nature, perceptions of environment. and categories of conservation and management would be lost. Traditional knowledge may indeed linger even after a native language is lost, but the richness and diversity of that knowledge cannot survive even one generation of language loss.
Traditional knowledge is critical to development of alternative strategies for sustainability. When granted autonomy, Indigenous peoples are accomplished environmental managers. This is fact, not anecdote. Successful use of traditional knowledge and effective in situ conservation depends upon a shift in power from distant centres to Indigenous peoples and their local communities. This process and state of empowerment is known as self-determination, which is the unifying demand of all Indigenous peoples. Without the right to determine their own futures, make their own decisions, and control their own land, territories, and resources, environmental conservation will remain only rhetoric.
This fundamental shift in power requires international legal structures and political will. Environmental groups, developmental agencies, foundations. banks, professional organisations, NGOs, and governments should not wait for legal structures, but become pro-active in leading the fundamental shift by ensuring that their organisations, structures, and funding supports self-determination.
This applies to linguists as well. It is no longer enough to study disappearing languages so as to "preserve" them for future linguistic studies. Indigenous peoples find such academic pursuits perverse, pernicious, and self-indulgent. Indigenous peoples have begun amoratorium movement to prevent further such parasitic studies.
It is also no longer possible for linguists to claim political naivetÈ in dealing with human rights and international political debates on cultural, language, and biodiversity. Human rights and ethical concerns have now been thoroughly integrated into industry, politics, and most scientific disciplines, leaving by and large linguistics behind and marginalized. This is indeed unfortunate, because linguistics and linguists hold exactly the missing pieces that are needed to effectively defend indigenous and traditional peoples: the inextricable link between biological and cultural diversity --- language.