Foundation for Endangered Languages

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6. Forthcoming FEL Conference: Endangered Languages - What Role for the Specialist? Edinburgh, 25-27 September 1998

The workshop will provide a forum for researchers and activists working for the maintenance of indigenous languages that face an uncertain future.

Conference Scope and Aims In recent years, number of support organizations have established themselves, all aiming to mobilize research effort, popular opinion and money in defence of declining languages.

The question is often raised of how these outsiders can really help the cause that they have identified. Language communities must have inner strength in order to survive, or at least the will and the means to go on using their traditional tongues. Outside organizations, however well-meaning, cannot supply such qualities directly. Some ask whether the organizations even have the right to try to interfere.

This conference, the second organized by the Foundation for Endangered Languages, is seeking answers to one part of this question. How can language specialists, whether professional linguists, educators, media professionals or whoever, actually contribute to language maintenance?

We shall be looking for testimony on the actual effects of professional involvement on small language communities throughout the world: both community members, and the professionals themselves will have their tales to tell.

We do not expect a common set of conclusions to emerge from this sharing of experience and analysis. But we shall be looking at the variety we find, and asking if it points to a good way to define the roles of the support organizations: how they can complement one another, perhaps sharing techniques, perhaps transmitting knowledge?

Some Themes addressed:

When does the professional best act as an external consultant, when as a team-player?

What are useful relations:
· among grammarians, lexicographers and sociolinguists?
· among community-leaders, language-activists and language-scientists?
· among ordinary speakers, creative users, broadcasters and publishers?



What have been great successes in specialist language work, and what motivated the people responsible?

How does local work benefit from EL support organizations with a global or continental view? Is the need for technical assistance, production of materials, publicity, funding, political agitation?

Should EL support organizations themselves specialize?

If so how: regionally, or by function?

The dates will be 25-27 September 1998, and the venue the Pollock Halls in Edinburgh. There will be a preliminary volume of proceedings distributed at the Conference.

Presentations will last twenty minutes each, with a further ten minutes for discussion. All presentations should be accessible largely in English, but use of the languages of interest, for quotation or exemplification, may well be appropriate.

Besides the formal sessions there will be a social events, including a visit to local sights in Edinburgh.


· Dr Nicholas Ostler Foundation for Endangered Languages, Bath, England
· Prof Kenneth Mackinnon Universities of Edinburgh and Hertfordshire
· Dr Briony Williams University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Programme Committee:
Akira Yamamoto, Mahendra K Verma, Andrew Woodfield, Anthony Woodbury, Briony Williams, Tasaku Tsunoda, Jane Simpson, Mari Rhydwen, Jon Reyhner, Nicholas Ostler, David Nash, Christopher Moseley, Kenneth Mackinnon, John Clews, Margaret Allen.

Provisional Programme

Friday, 25 September

12.00 Registration

Session 1: Endangered Languages: What Role for the Specialist?

2.30 Nicholas Ostler Welcome: the Foundation, and the Conference

2.55 Briony Williams Local introduction

3.00 Donna B. Gerdts Keynote Address: The Linguist in Language Revitalization Programmes Salishan, Canada

Session 2 Un peu d’histoire…

4:30 Kim Hardie Role of Specialists: the Case of Flemish in Belgium Germanic

5.00 Jens Eberhard Jahn Istria: Between Regional Ethnic Awakening And Nationalism Rom./Slav./Alban., Adriatic

5.30 Ken Mackinnon The Past and Future of Scots Gaelic Celtic, UK

Saturday, 26 September

Session 3 Successful interactions

9.30 Mick Mallon A Partnership: Two Old Men Eskimo

10.00 Jon Reyhner, Gina Cantoni What Educators Can Do to Aid Community Efforts at Indigenous Language Maintenance and Revitalization USA


Session 4 Understanding the Language from the Inside

11.30 N. Louanna Furbee, Lori Stanley and Tony Arkeketa Two Kinds of Expert in Language Renewal Siouan, USA

12.00 Roberto Bolognesi Standardization of Endangered Languages: the Case of Sardinian Romance, Italy

12.30 Veronica Grondona Endangered languages, their speakers and the language specialist: the case of Mocovi Waikuruan, Argentina

2:30 Session 5 Annual General Meeting

Session 6 Understanding the Language from the Outside

4:30 Diego Quesada Competing Interpretations of History: What if they are Wrong? Chibchan, Costa Rica

5.00 Tapani Salminen Minority Languages in a Society in Turmoil: the case of the Northern Languages of the Russian Federation Ural./Tungus./ Turk/Paleosib.

5.30 M. Lynn Landweer Indicators of Ethnolinguistic Vitality: Case Study of Two Languages, Labu and Vanimo Austronesian/Sko, NiuGini

Sunday, 27 September

Session 7 The New Role of Information Technology

9.30 Bojan Petek Slovenian Language in the Information Age Slav, Slovenia

10.00 RC MacDougall Effects and Defects of E-mail Mohawk, US

10.30 Mari Rhydwen Strategies for Doing the Impossible Australia

Session 8 Taking Stock

11.30 Hilaire Valiquette First Things First: on Language Preservation/Revitalization Efforts USA

12.00 Akira Yamamoto Language Community, Scientific Community and Mutually Supported Community USA

12.30 All Final Discussion