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5. Allied Societies and Activities

Languages in the Southern Kalahari

Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 15:35:12 +0200

Dear Nick

Thank you for the copy of Ogmios. Very useful. Also makes me feel less alone in this work!

I'd like to give you a quick update on the Southern Kalahari situation. I worked extensively with Hugh Brody in November last year. We did a lot of cultural mapping, geneaology work and following down word of mouth referrals. In the end we identified a total of 9 fluent =Khomani speakers living in townships around Upington and Keimoes - hundreds of kilometres from their original birth places in the Kalahari.

Owing to the advanced age of most of the speakers and the huge distances we used audio and video tapes to record messages and share them between the communities. This turned out to be very successful. Elsie Vaalbooi, the 96 year old woman in Rietfontein, was surprised and charmed to watch Anna Kassie and Griet Seekoei talk about making tsamma melon pap and using snuff on a video we had just made.

Elsie recorded a five minute message in =Khomani for the other nine speakers. We played the tape and video-taped the response. It was a great moment. The highlight was sitting in Keimoes with Willem Springbok. 18 children and grandchildren sat to hear their father's language for the first time. When we left they all waved enthusiastically and said "!hoi ca" the =Khomani greeting and farewell, which they had only just learned.

I am just heading to the Kalahari again and we hope to bus all the speakers to the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, where they will meet up with the core traditional group and give testimony on their birth places in the Park. This will assist the land claim and help the community recover its history.

You may wish to share this with your readers. Also anyone who wishes to contact us should do so at the San Institute: sasi(at)

Thank you and Best wishes

!Hoi ca

Nigel Crawhall

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 12:19:37 +0000

Dear Nick

Just a quick update. We spent two scorching weeks in the Kalahari with tremendous results. We brought 8 of the "bushman language" speakers from Upington up to the desert to meet with the core traditional (but younger- post language death) generation.

Many many good things transpired, but the best, from a language point of view, was that the community decided they wanted to make a word list of animals. We built a trilingual word list, as a group exercise, in !Kabee, Afrikaans and Nama.

So, you may ask where does this word !kabee come in. Once the eight speakers, plus Elsie Vaalbooi, started to talk more and reawaken their knowledge and fluency - they pointed out that =Khomani is a misnomer. Academics from the turn of the century have used this term, but the community says it is a clan name that does not apply to all of them. They refer to themselves in the aggregate as Saasi, and the language as !Kabee.

Despite there only being 11 speakers (so far) the community is really committed to teaching the language to each other and especially to the grandchildren. All this enthusiasm cannot be separated from their optimism that they will get land back during the land claim process and once again have access to the desert and its natural resources.

Hope you are well. Best wishes

Nigel Crawhall
South African San Institute
5 Long Street, Mowbray, 7700
Cape Town, South Africa
tel / fax: + 27 21 685 4223
e-mail: sasi(at)

(and see Geoff Perrott’s appeal above, in section 3).

German “Society for Endangered Languages” (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Sprachen e.V.)

According to reliable estimates, a third of the world’s 6500 languages will become extinct in the next century. More pessimistic estimates even predict the death of up to 90 % of our natural languages. The disappearance, in the near future, of most of the languages (and dialects) of the world will deprive us of a significant portion of the cultural and historical heritage of humankind. In the last few years action in response to this threat of language extinction has been taking shape in the form of national and international activities for the maintenance and documentation of endangered languages.

In cooperation with the Committee on Endangered Languages of the German Linguistic Society, a group of German linguists founded the independent “Society for Endangered Languages” (“Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Sprachen e.V.”) in Cologne in November 1997. The goal of this non-profit society is to promote the use, the preservation, and the documentation of endangered languages and dialects.

To achieve this aim, the "Society for Endangered Languages" will try
· to support endangered languages projects and to advise the projects’ staff with respect to problems of how to plan, carry out and evaluate these projects;
· to promote field research, language documentation and other scientific projects that will contribute to the preservation of endangered languages and dialects;
· to initiate and support activities that promote the pursuit of these topics within the curricula of universities and other educational institutions;
· to promote national and international cooperation between scientists that are involved in the preservation and documemntation of endangered languages and dialects; and
· to inform, as comprehensively as possible, the scientific and general public about the situation of endangered languages and dialects and about the problems such speech communities face.

It goes without saying that the “Society for Endangered Languages” (“Gesellschaft für bedrohte Sprachen e.V.”) aims to fully cooperate with all the speech communities involved. It will endeavour to consider and realize these speech communities' own ideas with respect to the documentation and preservation of their languages or dialects.

The members of the founding mananging board are: Hans-Jürgen Sasse (University of Cologne, President), Gunter Senft (MPI for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Vice-President), Dagmar Jung (University of Cologne, secretary), Werner Drossard (University of Cologne, cashier), Utta von Gleich (Hamburg, advisor), Otto Jastrow (University of Erlangen, advisor), and Jan Wirrer (University of Bielefeld, advisor).

Applications for membership should be sent to the managing board of the society. Annual membership fees are 30.- DM for members with regular income and 15.- DM for students and members without income.



Further information on the Society for Endangered Languages is available under the following address:

Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Sprachen
c/o Hans-Juergen Sasse
Institut fuer Sprachwissenschaft
Universitaet zu Koeln
50923 Koeln
e-mail: GBS(at)

Anyone for Bannock?

Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 10:25:42 +0800 (WST)
Doug Whalen whalen(at) wrote:

The following message comes from a concerned individual whose in-laws speak an endangered Native American language. I told her that I would try to find someone who might be interested in working with the Bannock elders. If anyone is interested, could you contact Cindy Senicka directly? Her email address is at the bottom of her message. I don't know this language or its situation, but it does have the first ingredient for a successful project: dedicated and concerned native speakers. And they seem to recognize the need for linguistic expertise and know that they lack it.

I hope that someone is interested. Also, Ms. Senicka deserves support for the efforts she has already taken.


I am not a linguist but am seeking information or the proper resource.

I was at a small gathering of elders at Idaho State University, the topic was the Bannocks of Idaho. One of the elders is my mother-in-law. She stated that there were only about 30 or so fluent Bannock speakers left. All elders. The younger people only speak phrases or totally English.

About 15 to 20 years ago they had made reel-to-reel tapes with the older generation documenting the language and history. Those tapes have been lost in the meantime. She and other elders have written down vocabularies and phrases, etc. But they need assistance organizing the work. It is in a very disorganized state.

I asked my mother-in-law if it would be OK to check out resources. I know that there are groups which are looking into language preservation and retention and need languages to document. Well, here is a language.

Shoshone and Bannock people live on Fort Hall. The school here teaches Shoshone but not Bannock. The Shoshone are the majority here.

Bannock is a Paiute related language, Shoshone is Uto-Aztecan I think... I may have it wrong.

Thank you for any assistance you can give.



Recent Developments in the Support of Scots Gaelic

Nancy Dorian wrote to the Endangered Languages List on 17 May 1998:

…Efforts of behalf of Scottish Gaelic didn’t get seriously underway until decades after similar efforts had already long been undertaken in ireland and in Wales, but they've picked up a good deal of steam in a fairly short time-span.

Gaelic preschool playgroups were begun in 1972-73; the 1st one in Edinburgh was begun in 1973. By 1991 there were 85, with many, many more in the planning stage. A Gaelic Language Promotion Trust was set up in 1976, with the objective or raising and investing "large sums" of money for the future development of the Gaelic language. Gaelic-medium primary education followed in due course, after the playgroup movement had gotten underway, and Gaelic-medium secondary education followed in turn, although it hasn’t grown as dramatically as yet as has primary Gaelic-medium education.

… Comann an Luchd Ionnsachaidh, the Gaelic Learners' Association, … was founded in 1984, and Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic business college in Skye, which specializes in technical and business/secretarial courses in Gaelic but also offer relatively short-term language instruction and a host of likewise short-term cultural courses. Some economically important business ventures have grown up in Skye, concomitantly: for example, a firm that creates sub-titles for film (especially English subtitles for Gaelic TV programs, films, & such, I think, with the goal of making them accessible to English-speakers and to Gaelic learners). There are also, since 1993, community-base development initiatives in four mainland Highland locations, with a field officer assigned to each.

Comunn na Gaidhlig (CNAG -- the Gaelic Association), based in Inverness… fosters economic development by trying to encourage jobs for Gaelic speakers and start-up enterprises involving Gaelic, also linking the Gaelic arts community with the tourism trade.

There's a Gaelic Books Council, a Gaelic Arts Project, and groups working on Gaelic videos, in addition to a much expanded broadcast industry (radio & TV both). Gaelic radio has its own broadcast frequency now, but there is no TV channel reserved for Gaelic, as there is for Welsh in Wales and (only recently) for Irish in Ireland. There's a Gaelic Educational trust, launched in 1990 (perhaps a successor to the Gaelic Language Promotion Trust of '76?), Urras Foghlum na Gaidhlig, to raise money for fostering Gaelic; their first appeal for funds, in 1990-91, was aimed at establishing a Gaelic cultural center in Glasgow.

There was great excitement in 1996 over the announcement of a planned Taigh na Gaidhlig ('House of Gaelic') in Edinburgh. It is to include recital & exhibition areas, a bookshop, a library, a cafe, creche, and "outreach & seminar rooms", with services to be provided thru the medium of Gaelic. Members of this list will perhaps not be entirely surprised to hear that there has been some sentiment among Gaelic speakers to the effect that Taigh na Gaidhlig should be reserved for actual speakers of Gaelic and barred to English speakers, who (the argument goes) have all the rest of the city of Edinburgh at their disposal for the speaking of English.English speakers, especially those with some interest in Gaelic (a rather large number, since there seems to be growing good will toward Gaelic in contemporary Scotland), haven’t been overly pleased by this suggestion. Given past attitudes in Lowland Scotland toward the Highlands and toward Gaelic, it will be a very large positive step, symbolically speaking, if there comes to be a very modern and urban center in the capitol where Gaelic is routinely spoken by urban-dwelling Gaelic speakers going about essentially urban lives.

On a personal note I remember well the surprise and pleasure I felt when I saw two men in business suits, carrying briefcases, speaking Gaelic together in Portree, Isle of Skye, in 1964. There were vanishingly few opportunities to see anything of that sort in the Highlands in the 1960s, and that fact can stand as a measure of how far the Gaelic language has come in the last 30 years. Whether the very real resurgence in terms of Gaelic learning will lead to a rise in the home transmission of Gaelic is an unanswered question as yet.