Foundation for Endangered Languages

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2. Development of the Foundation

First Workshop (and 2nd AGM) , Univ of York, 26-27 July 1997: Call for Participation

Most members who receive this will already have had brief details of this (with their renewal notice) from Andrew Woodfield, our Secretary. Here is a full statement of our programme, to which you are very cordially invited!

Steps in Language Rescue
2.00 - 2.30 Arrival, any late registration
2.30 - 2.40 Introduction to the Foundation for Endangered Languages FEL committee Session I
2.40 - 3.10 Endangered Language Policy in India Mahendra Verma
3.10 - 3.40 The situation of the Berber languages in North Africa Farid Aitsiselmi
3.40 - 4.10 Script groups and their use in particular areas John Clews
4.10 - 4.30 Break Tea and discussion

Session II
4.30 - 5.00 Izhorian: is language revival possible? Ilya S. Nikolaev
5.00 - 5.30 Issues in standardisation for the Tsimshian Language of the American North West Tonya Nicole Stebbins
5.30 - 6.00 An overview of endangered languages in Brunei Darussalam Peter Martin
-- Break for dinner, followed by


1. Minutes of last AGM
2. Matters arising
3. President's report
4. Treasurer's report
5. Membership secretary's report
6. Election of executive committee for 97-8

1. Minutes of Edinburgh meeting
2. Matters arising
3. International Conference on Language Endangerment 1998 (MV)
4. Appeals to foreign governments (CM)
5. Bids presented to FEL for grants (CM)

Session III
9.00 - 9.30 Language revival: the case of Irish in Belfast Alison Henry
9.30 - 10.00 Gaelic as an endangered language: problems and prospects Kenneth MacKinnon
10.00 - 10.20 Break Tea and discussion

Session IV
10.30 - 11.00 Planning for Kurdish Language and Linguistics Siamak Rezaei Durroei
11.00 - 11.30 Big Oil and the Threat to Minority Languages by the Andes Nicholas Ostler
11.30 - 12.00 Final discussion and Round-up of Policy Pointers
Noon -- Lunch and departures --

General Meeting, 6 April 1997, Edinburgh

Opened at 2:10 p.m., in Room B9, Adam Ferguson Building, Edinburgh University

Present: Nicholas Ostler (Chair-NO), Mahendra Verma (MV), David Nash, Jane Simpson, Alice Turk (until 2:30), Christopher Moseley (CM - from 3 p.m.), Heather King, Greville Corbett (GC), Jean Ure, Karen Birtwistle, Russell Norton; Mark Donohue, Siamak Rezaei (visitors, since joined); Joan Bresnan, Rachel Nordlinger (visitors).

Apologies: Andrew Woodfield (Secretary).

Dr David Nash kindly volunteered to take the minutes of the meeting, which are now written up by the Chairman.

1. Minutes of AGM and Matters Arising:
The Chairman read the Minutes of the last meeting, and circulated:
· Kenneth MacKinnon’s report on the status of Scots Gaelic;
· application for support of Kakolo language research, received by Christopher Moseley (Liaison Officer);
· the Secretary’s report by Andrew Woodfield;
· letter from Oliver Dow supporting his application to become Treasurer of the Foundation

2. Election of New Treasurer:
NO suggested that Oliver Dow be appointed as new Treasurer, subject to satisfactory references. Given the continuing lack of direct knowledge of Mr Dow (he was not present at the meeting, nor had sent his apologies), it was agreed that he be appointed only for 6 months in the first instance, with renewal requiring approval of the Committee.

NO announced that the major formalities had been completed to empower MV as acting treasurer - i.e. joint signatory with himself on the Foundation’s account. MV had also received all documents from Daniel Nettle, the outgoing treasurer. MV was appointed acting treasurer until the appointment of Oliver Dow was completed.

3. Annual General Meeting - 26-27 July 1997 - York:
MV has booked rooms for 25 people at the University of York, putting down a 250-pound deposit. A keynote speaker was needed (Joshua Fishman with Christina Pawston would be in England at SIL, Horsley Green on 4 June 1997.) In the light of concern that it was already too late to provide a substantial programme for the meeting, NO proposed that the meeting be a workshop, rather than a fully-fledged conference. The dates of various allied meetings in that period were mentioned, e.g. 20 - 25 July (the International Congress of Linguists in Paris), 27 July - 1 August (World Congress of African Linguistics, including (in last 2 days) Symposium of Endangered Languages in Africa, Cologne).

The dates for the meeting were confirmed, and MD volunteered to work out a programme for the meeting, with help from NO.

4. Active Volunteers:
Those present were urged to volunteer for active service. Karen Birtwistle did so. The chairman said he would take this up with her after the meeting.

5. Grant Application:
CM had written to the three current applicants with the newly formulated FEL questionnaire to elicit details of the work proposed. MV credited Bob Lepage with helpful comments on the questionnaire, and CM Tasaku Tsunoda with guidance on the approach to knowledge gained that would not be appropriate for publication.



One reply had been received, from Valentin Vydrine in St.Petersburg. This concerned a proposed expedition to Mali, to explore the status of the Kakolo language. MV asked about references. Gerald Corbett suggested that the request be conveyed to the Philological Society, in case they might offer a source of matching funds. Jean Ure asked whether it was planned to publish corpora in the language, especially taped corpora, and raised the issue of prestige languages. NO proposed offering the applicant the maximum grant of 500 dollars US, on condition that funding was found for the rest of the budget. The matter was carried over to the next meeting, with a requested.
ACTION ON CM to contact the Philological Society as GC had suggested.

6. Volunteer report on Museums’ reaction to FEL Display Contributions
CM also reported on the mainly negative reaction of a number of museums to this suggestion which had been developed at the Batheaston meeting (7 December 1996). The two most positive were the British Museum, which holds a collection of sound archives of rare languages, and the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, which has requested further information. CM added that the possibility of introducing FEL material into a successful Millennium Commission funded programme had not been exhausted. Jean Ure suggested trying access to Multiculture Edinburgh.

7. Offer from Philological Society to publish Grammars
GC spoke to this. Max Wheeler, the Hon. Sec. for Publications (School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at Sussex University BN1 9QH - maxw(at) - 01273-678975 fax 671320) had written that the Society had funds to increase the frequency of its monograph series to two per year or thereabouts. The Society would be eager to publish grammars, or indeed other descriptive studies of languages so far inadequately recorded. The series is published and marketed by Blackwells, so authors can be sure of adequate publicity (as well as the fact that it is distributed free to members of the Society, who currently number somewhat over 500.

8. Foundation’s Logo
NO reported that he had received some new versions of the motif designed by Bronwyn Williams-Ellis. He reported that he had paid £100 of his own funds to the artist in respect of this work, for which he would be seeking authorisation at the next meeting. He proposed that he should integrate one of them into a design for the Foundation’s letterhead, and agree this within the Committee, without further submission to the membership. This was agreed. [The new logo now graces the masthead of our newletter - above.]

9. Presentations on Endangerment Situations
The meeting concluded with two reports on language situations: from Drs Jane Simpson (U Sydney) and David Nash (AIATSIS) on the languages of central Australia (circulating an AIATSIS brochure); and from Siamak Rezaei (U Edinburgh) on the current state of Kurdish, and a project to provide Kurdish language materials electronically over the Internet. (These are summarized below.)

10. Matters arising from the Presentations
SR asked whether the Foundation could help to provide a permanent home for the Kurdish electronic materials which were being placed on the web site. The Chairman declared himself unable to offer any such assurance, but asked SR to submit is requirements in writing so that the situation could be published (through the FEL newsletter) and perhaps brought to the attention of agencies that could help. (ACTION on Siamak Rezaei.)

The meeting closed at 4:55 p.m.

Languages of central Australia: current status

Drs Jane Simpson (U Sydney) and David Nash (AIATSIS)

The situation of Aboriginal languages is changing rapidly, often to the detriment of the languages; “young people’s Djirbal” was quoted, whose speakers are ashamed to use it before their elders; and literacy among Alyawarra children. (10 years ago those children who attended school did so in Alyawarra, now there is more school, but all of it in Aboriginal English.)

A useful table was proposed of how documentation activities can be useful in maintaining languages.

Documenting Can Help To Maintain:
Recording Characteristic Conversational Gambits;Patterns of Language Use;Varieties of Interpretation, e.g. Metaphor
Preserving Knowledge in the community (specifically, what material there is, and how to get at it.)
Making Accessible Cheap Publications;Learners’ Grammars;Oral Material

There was some discussion of possible complementary strategies (with English) for the maintenance of Aboriginal traditions and languages: e.g. Sesame Street (under the name of Manyu-Wana) is now available in Warlpiri. The pop group Yothu Yindi have also given a global stage to some of the issues involved. Kurdish, and a project to provide Kurdish materials over the Internet

Siamak Rezaei (U Edinburgh) gave a quick overview of the size of Kurdish, with 8 million Kurds in Iran, 5 million in Iraq and 15 million in Turkey. (The million ethnic Kurds in the former Soviet Union have lost the language.) The language has two principal dialects, Northern and Southern, with a further 1-2 million speaking the Zaza dialect in Turkey/Syria; Sufi/Shia or Sunni affilation within Islam appear to correlatae somewhat with dialect. Kurdish is written in Arabic and Latin scripts (Cyrillic no more). LittleKurdish is taught in Turkey or Iran, and the Iranian consitution, although it permits Kurdish literature, forbids teaching in the language.

He described the principal contents of his web site
~siamakr/kurd_lal.html , but pointed out the unsolved problems of how it was to be maintained in the long term, when there would no longer be a site for it at Edinburgh.