Foundation for Endangered Languages

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OGMIOS Newsletter # 9 : 12 September 1998
Editor: Nicholas D. M. Ostler

Published by:
Foundation for Endangered Languages,
Batheaston Villa, 172 Bailbrook Lane, Bath BA1 7AA, England
e-mail: nostler(at)
Phone: +44/(0) -1225-852865 Fax: +44/(0) -1225-859258

1. Editorial Review: Matsumura - Studies in EL 3

2. Development of the Foundation 5
FEL Achieves Charitable Status 5
FEL Conference - Edinburgh, 25-27 Sept. 1998: What Rôle for the Specialist? 5

3. Language Endangerment in the News 6
Indonesia discovers two new tribes in Irian Jaya (Reuters) 6
Language on Trial in Belarus 6
California Passes Proposition 227 against bilingual education 7
European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages in Jeopardy 7

4. Appeals and News from Endangered Communities 8
Situation of the Indigenous Languages of Colombia, especially Chimila 8
Recent Fieldwork in Nigeria: Report on Horom and Tapshin 10
What Future for the Berber Language? 11
Mapuche Rights Threatened in Chile 12

5. Allied Societies and Activities 14
National Language Centre of Wales: a Year’s Reprieve 14
The Right to Communicate, an international hearing 14

6. Overheard on the Web 17
Endangered Languages: an active approach - Thailand and China 17
Wanted: Translations of the Slovene National Anthem into Many Different Languages 17

7. Places to Go, on the Web and in the World 18
An annotated bibliography of Vanuatu languages, by John Lynch 18
Cimbrian Web Page 18
Symposium on Teaching Indigenous Languages: proceedings site 18
LING-AMERINDIA : Discussion List for South American Indigenous Languages 18
Hocak Goodvillage 18
Canadian Language Planning Report 19
"Words and Images: A Portrait of Languages" 19

8. Forthcoming Meetings 19
Globalization, New Technologies, Multilingual Classrooms. Reading 21-2 Sept. 1998 19
Maintenance and Loss of Minority Languages, 26-27 November 1998 20
World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education, Big Island of Hawai'i, 1-7 August 1999. 20
Lenguas Indígenas de Sudamérica: Lima, Perú, 4-6 Agosto 1999 21

9. Book Reviewed 21
Chris Moseley : Grenoble & Whaley - EL: Language Loss and Community Response 21

10. Publications of Interest 22
New Akha Cultural Reader 22

This issue of Ogmios features some good news about the Chimila people of Northern Colombia. (Frank Seifart’s report on p. 8.) To give some historical background to their civilization, we show here an artefact from their ancient history. Bringing new life out of death, it stands well for the rebirth of the Chimila language in a regenerated community.

This is a Burial Urn, dated between 500 B.C. - A.D. 100. It is 60 cm high, with a 30 cm diameter. It is an instance of the Northern Andean practice known as "secondary burial," in which the bones and gold jewelry of the deceased were reburied in a large urn on the anniversary of the individual's death. Its size is a necessity to contain the leg bones but demonstrates considerable ceramic skill: it is hard to bring off so large a vessel when building by hand. Apparently, only the permanent parts of the body were needed to "grow" a new one after death; bones had to be buried, as if they were seeds being planted.

To contain these precious seeds of life was an image of fertility, here an egglike vessel representing a pregnant female. The jewelry marks her as a woman, and her distended navel and overall shape indicate pregnancy. The female body nurtures the bone/seeds for rebirth in an endlessly repeating cycle.

The urn is held at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, (gift of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau) and we gratefully acknowledge use of their photograph and documentation here.