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4. Allied Societies and Activities

“World of Language” in UK Millennium activities

From: "David Crystal" crystal(at)
To: Nick Ostler nostler(at)
Subject: Re: World of Language Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 19:26:12 +0100

Thanks for your note about the World of Language proposal. The idea has of course been around a long time, in various incarnations, but no-one ever had the clout to get it off the ground until the British Council took a serious interest last year, and they put some money into a pilot survey. There were a few press reports earlier this year, but nothing very much.

Several planning papers have been commissioned and completed, all under the guiding hand of Roger Bowers (former assistant director-general of the Council, now a freelance), who incidentally would be delighted to hear of any interest from any quarter (he is at 100543.1334(at), as it all adds to the case to be made. There was also a pretty brochure and a sample CD illustrating some of the 'hands on' activities which would be in such a Centre.

I was asked to do the detailed Content Specification for the idea - in which, incidentally, research is well represented. Indeed a whole floor of the four-floor scheme I proposed is devoted to it, in various ways. The whole issue of endangered languages is, as you'd expect, also well represented.

These papers were circulated at a preliminary meeting of interested scholars, teachers, and other professionals, held in London earlier in the year. Currently, there is some 'behind the scenes' work going on, with major fund-holders being approached. The scheme is planned to cost 20 million over 3 years - not a large sum, compared with, say the Greenwich Dome. There is some preliminary interest already shown, and people are cautiously optimistic that the idea will go ahead.

The immediate stimulus for the idea, by the way, was the apparent availability of a site - a building adjacent to Shakespeare's Globe, on the new 'tourist avenue' which is going to be a major part of the London scene in the '00s. The deadlines imposed by the Millennium Commission were also an important stimulus, though in the event the scheme wasn't sufficiently ready to get support from them.

There's nothing confidential about any of this, and I'm happy to show the Content Spec to anyone interested - though it would probably make sense for enquiries to be channelled through Roger, who is in any case best placed to answer general questions about all this.

Best wishes. David Crystal

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 97 08:43:36 UT From: "Roger Bowers" Roger_Bowers(at) To: nostler(at) Subject: THE WORLD OF LANGUAGE

Dear Nicholas

I have been in touch with Dick Hudson and he and I will be meeting shortly so that we can draw LAGB into the WOL project. Thank you for drawing it to the attention of so many colleagues. WOL is an independent project - run as a company limited by guarantee - which has had support from the outset from the British Council, FCO, and other parts of Govt., individuals such as Sir David (now Lord) Puttnam) etc. Our academic advisor is Professor David Crystal.

WOL is at the beginning of a long road in obtaining acceptance and sponsorship for a project which has to combine intellectual rigour with educational usefulness, a community agenda, and a sound and viable business plan involving success as a visitor attraction. As we go down this road we plan to draw in all those whose agendas can be served by WOL - including LAGB, BAAL, the research centres and databases, speech technology etc etc.

On the website, behind the 'glossy' material, you will find a set of papers including one by David Crystal which 'scopes' the coverage of WOL. Of his five sub-worlds, one is the world of language study. As we succeed in getting backing - and we have a good deal already - we will be forming focus groups to help us flesh out all aspects of the content specification. I am confident that there will be areas where UK linguistics and applied linguistics will have a role to play and where we will find mutual benefit. But that level of precision and engagement would be a bit premature until we know we have the financial package and political support that will make this work.

Dick and I will see how best we can maintain the dialogue as things develop. Do let me have any thoughts you have on this, and encourage colleagues everywhere to express their views and come out in support. Feel free to 'round-robin' this note to your mailing list.

I can be contacted at Roger_Bowers(at) or directly from the WOL website at

Regards Roger Bowers

Mexican Indigenous Languages: Recent developments at CELIAC
February 12, 1997

H. Russell Bernard, Dept. of Anthropology, 1350 Turlington Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA

CELIAC is a not-for-profit organization, incorporated by indigenous people in Oaxaca, Mexico. CELIAC operates as a publishing house for indigenous-language books written by native speakers of indigenous languages from across Latin America. CELIAC now has its own building, with kitchen and dormitory facilities for up to 16 people. Indigenous authors in residence at CELIAC learn to use computers to write books in their own languages.

The Oaxaca Native Literacy Project

Over the last five years, the CELIAC project has been featured in articles in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers around the country. It was also covered by several magazines, including Cultural Survival Quarterly, and was featured on CNN's Future Watch. CELIAC began in 1987 as the Oaxaca Native Literacy Project, but the roots of the effort go much earlier.

Jesus Salinas Pedraza is a Nyahnyu (Otomi) Indian school teacher from Mexico. He and I began working together in 1962 when I was doing my MA research on his language. In 1971, Salinas and I began working on a project to document the Nyahnyu culture, in Nyahnyu. We developed a writing system for Nyahnyu and Salinas wrote four books about the culture of the people of the Mezquital Valley. Three of those books are available from CELIAC in a single volume, in both Nyahnyu and Spanish (see the book list attached). All four books were published in a single volume in English in 1989 (Native Ethnography; A Mexican Indian Describes His Culture, H. Russell Bernard and Jesus Salinas Pedraza, Sage Publications).

In 1987, building on our book collaboration, Salinas and I conceived of the Oaxaca Native Literacy Center -- a place where Indian people from around the Americas could learn to read and write their own languages using microcomputers. Our idea was for Indians to write, print and publish their own works, in their own languages, on topics of their own choice. They would write their own histories and record their knowledge for their children -- and for all our children as well.

The center began operation in 1989, with support from the National Bureau of Indian Education and the Center for Advanced Studies in Anthropology in Mexico; from the Interamerican Indian Institute; and from the Jessie Ball Du Pont Foundation. My students and I at the University of Florida's Department of Anthropology provided technical training. Salinas runs the center, along with Josefa Gonzalez Ventura, a Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca. Together they train other Indians to use computers to write and to print books in Indian languages.

The Project becomes CELIAC

In 1993 the project incorporated as a not-for-profit organization called CELIAC -- the Centro Editorial de Literatura Indigena, A.C. The A.C. stands for Asociacion Civil, which means "not-for- for-profit corporation." All five board members of CELIAC are native speakers of Mexican Indian languages.

In January 1994, CELIAC moved into its own building in Oaxaca. The building houses up to 16 persons. There are toilet facilities for men and women, an ample kitchen, office space, meeting rooms, and computer work rooms. Indigenous authors spend time in residence at CELIAC, and CELIAC is now a publishing house for indigenous literature, written in indigenous languages. CELIAC markets its books to scholars, libraries, and individuals.

Proceeds from the sale of the books help keep the project going. Books are sold directly by CELIAC and all funds go directly to the project.

So far, over 150 people -- speakers of a dozen languages (Mixtec, Chinantec, Aymara, Quichua, and others) from countries across Latin America (Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador) -- have spent from four weeks to six months in residence at CELIAC.

How You Can Participate

As a not-for-profit organization, CELIAC accepts donations from foundations and from individuals. Just as important, however, is the support from colleagues who purchase the books and services of CELIAC.

One thing we can all do to help slow the erosion of language diversity in the world is to purchase books produced by indigenous authors. This will create incentives for indigenous- language authors to produce more literary output, and it will create jobs for indigenous-language production editors, marketing specialists, and so on.



Dictionaries of languages like English and French that already have long literary traditions are built from printed materials. Dictionaries of languages that have no literary tradition are built from transcriptions of speech. The result is: a) dictionaries of languages like English and French that are enormous -- because they represent the lexicons of thousands of people -- but have little information about spoken language;
b) dictionaries of previously nonliterary languages that have lots of information on how words are used in speech, but which are small because they represent the lexicons of a few people.

In my experience, the production of dictionaries for indigenous languages is best supported by the development of literary traditions.

A list of the books available from CELIAC is appended below in Section 9 Publications of Interest.

Please ask your library to place a standing order for CELIAC books, particularly if your library has a strong collection in Native American and/or Latin American titles.

Besides its books, CELIAC offers other cultural products and services. Here are some examples:

1. A four-year college in the U.S. has contracted with CELIAC to accommodate a class for a month at a time.

2. The Mexican Social Security Institute contracted with CELIAC to conduct ethnographic interviews, in six languages of Oaxaca, on the management (at the household level) of infantile diarrhea. The results of that study were recently published jointly by the Mexican Ministry of Health and CELIAC. The interviewers had been trained at CELIAC. They conducted their interviews in the local languages and submitted their reports in those languages. The book that resulted contains both the Spanish and the indigenous language versions of the report.

3. The Interamerican Institute for Indigenous Studies (Instituto Indigenista Interamericano) has so far brought two groups of 12 and one group of 6 bilingual school teachers to CELIAC from South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina).

4. An anthropologist in the U.S. sponsored one of his indigenous colleagues to spend several months at CELIAC. The indigenous colleague produced a book in Ecuadorian Quichua.

5. An anthropologist in Mexico sponsored a craft show at CELIAC where indigenous paper-making technology was highlighted.

CELIAC offers colleagues in linguistics and anthropology the opportunity to purchase indigenous cultural and linguistic goods and services directly from the creators of those goods and services at fair market value.

You can contribute to the preservation of indigenous languages and cultures in Latin America by:
1) buying (or asking your university library to buy) the books produced by CELIAC authors;
2) sponsoring the distribution of indigenous-language books to village schools in which those languages are spoken;
3) sponsoring the publication of an indigenous-language book by CELIAC;
4) sponsoring a colleague who speaks an indigenous language to spend several months in residence at CELIAC and to write a book in her or his language;
5) making a tax-deductible contribution (in the U.S.) to the Native Literacy Project at the University of Florida Foundation, Inc.

For information in Spanish, or to arrange to visit CELIAC, contact Jesus Salinas at celiac(at)

If you are planning a trip to Mexico and would like to visit CELIAC, contact Jesus Salinas or Josefa Gonzalez by phone: from the U.S., dial +52-951-59725. If you do not speak Spanish, you may send e-mail in English to me at

Endangered Language Fund: 1st Round of Grants

Doug Whalen, ELF President, reported on 1 October 1997:

The Endangered Language Fund is pleased to announce the recipients of our first round of grant awards.

The Endangered Language Fund is a US nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of languages that are threatened with extinction. Through the generosity of our members, we are able to promote work that would otherwise go undone. This year's ten grants were selected from a competitive field of more than 50 proposals, all with the goal of helping to stem the tide of language loss.

The projects are:
1. Production of original television dramas in Choctaw and Creek. Awarded to Alice Anderton of the Intertribal Wordpath Society. This project will produce two dramas starring native speakers of these two Native American languages, which are currently spoken in Oklahoma. Captioned versions will be shown on cable access channels, and videotapes will be made available to the native speakers thoughout the state.
2. Making a rediscovered manuscript useful to the Comanche community. Awarded to Ronald Red Elk, Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee. In 1996, a manuscript dictionary of Comanche, containing over 4,000 entries, was discovered in the Smithsonian. With the help of the Endangered Language Fund grant, this work will be combined with other sources and corrobarted with the remaining speakers of Comanche, so that future generations will have as complete a record of the language as possible.
3. Recording the last two speakers of Klamath. Janne Underriner, University of Oregon. As with many Native American languages, only the oldest members of the Klamath tribe can still speak the language. Younger members of the tribe have come to realize that this is truly their last chance to know this important part of their heritage. With the aid of this work by a professional linguist, the Klamath hope to preserve what they can.
4. Further work on the Tohono O'odham (Papago) Dictionary Project. Awarded to Ofelia Zepeda, University of Arizona and member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. This language is still the first language of most tribal members over the age of 25, but children are less likely to learn it. When completed, the extensive dictionary will help reinforce the language skills of young parents and be a permanent resource to native speakers and others interested in the language.
5. Recording the last fluent speakers of Kuskokwim in Alaska. Awarded to Andrej Kibrik, University of Alaska. This little-studied Athabaskan language is down to three households which use it regularly. The lingustic work will aid in the teaching of the younger generation, especially through the audio recordings that will give a much better sense of the feel of the language than written sources can.
6. Preserving Yuchi, a Native American isolate. Awarded to Mary Linn, University of Kansas. Only nineteen fluent speakers remain of the Yuchi language. Once they are gone, the Yuchi tribe will be unable to learn more of their heritage, and linguists will be unable to solve the mystery of the last remaining language isolate of the Eastern US. Linn's dissertation work will help on both fronts.
7. Work on the Wasur languages of Indonesia. Awarded to Mark Donohue, University of Manchester. Language data collection will be conducted for several languages in a region that has only recently been officially recognized as a distinct ethnic region.
8. Immersion programs in Micmac, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy. Awarded to Karen Somerville, Gakeemaneh/Gignamoane, New Brunswick. The speakers of these Eastern Algonquian languages have joined forces to try to further the use of the languages by the young. The ELF grant will help purchase equipment for several language immersion programs that are being developed.
9. Han language documentation project. Awarded to Gary Holton, University of California, Santa Barbara. Han, an Alaskan Athabaskan language, has only a handful of native speakers, only one of whom is younger than sixty. This language is unusual in having preserved all four consonant series of proto-Athabaskan, yet it has only recently been recognized as a separate language. Holton's dissertation work will help solidify its position.
10. Preparing language materials for Jingulu of Australia. Awarded to Rob Pensalfini, MIT. Only about ten fluent speakers remain of this language, which is situated in the region between two major language families. Influences of both those families appear in the language, giving it many unique characteristics. Texts and a dictionary are being prepared, and the schools there are ready to make use of them.

These grants totalled $10,000 in awards and were madepossible only because of the generosity of our members. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them on behalf of the grant recipients.

For more information about the Endangered Language Fund, please write
Endangered Language Fund, Department of Linguistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

elf(at) Or visit our web site: