The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project  The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project

Endangered Languages Week 2013:
Celebrating our Sounds, Signs and Songs

ELW 2013 poster

SOAS, Russell Square, London

20-28 May 2013

 

Programme of events

Endangered Languages Week 2013 presents a variety of workshops, talks, films, demonstrations, debate, and more. All events are free of charge and open to anyone who is interested in languages.

Summary programme (PDF) - updated 26/5/2013

All events take place in the SOAS main buildings, except where noted ..map..

This page last updated: 26 May 2013

Monday 20 May
Workshop

ELDP Africa day: new data, methods, and approaches to African language documentation
9:30am-2:30pm, Room G03 (43 Gordon Square)

Keynote lecture

How linguists endanger languages
Felix Ameka (Leiden University) 2:30-4pm, Room G03 (43 Gordon Square)

Book Launch

Friederike Lüpke & Anne Storch: Repertoires and choices in African languages
4-4:30pm, Room G03 (43 Gordon Square)

Film Trailer Showing

Confluence of Agnack Agnack Kanraxël by Remigiusz and Anna Sowa 4:30-5pm, Room G03 (43 Gordon Square)

Tuesday 21 May
ELAR Archive Open Day

Displays and demonstrations 12-4:30pm Room 346

Debate

"We should save endangered languages" 2-3pm, Room B111 (Brunei Gallery)

Public debate between teams consisting of year 8 students from Bow School, London, and SOAS students and staff

"We should save endangered languages"

Debate, with teams drawn from year 8 students from Bow School, London, and SOAS students and staff

The debate will feature mixed teams of SOAS students and academics, along with selected students from a class of year 8 students from Bow School of Maths and Computing.

The students' class is involved in the Language Landscape pilot outreach project, where they learn about linguistics, endangered languages, and making recordings, in order to undertake group projects (e.g. Bow linguistic landscape, greetings in different languages, songs, etc.)

Seating will be limited so please come early!

Seminar

Multilingualism as epistemic resource: rethinking ‘languages‘ in educational policy
Caroline Kerfoot; Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden 3:30-5pm, Room 4418

Negotiating authority, constructing solidarity: the use of multilingual repertoires in a Cape Town primary school

Caroline Kerfoot; Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden

South Africa has the strongest economy on the African continent yet the highest levels of income inequality in the world. Patterns of failure, grade repetition, and lack of access to tertiary study continue to reflect substantial differences by race, class, and location. These persistent inequalities in epistemological access are a feature of a poorly performing education system with levels of literacy and numeracy that compare unfavourably with other developing contexts. Of the many factors complicating this situation, the one most relevant to this proposal is linguistic diversity and the fact that the vast majority of learners are learning through a language in which neither they, nor in many cases their teachers, have developed the discourses and registers of schooling.

Although post-apartheid language policies have placed equal value on eleven official languages and the state has adopted a mother-tongue based bilingual education policy, in practice complex entanglements of identities, histories, and languages intersect in classrooms in unexpected ways and with ambiguous consequences. More particularly, the hegemony of English as the language of aspiration has led to policies and practices which increasingly devalue the potential of African languages as vehicles for learning.

Drawing on the critical sociolinguistics of globalization and on ethnographic and interactional data from poorly resourced schools in the Western Cape, South Africa, I argue for a transformative epistemology of multilingualism for education in which all available languages and semiotic resources are used and promoted in the classroom in pursuit of learning. Such an approach assumes the pedagogic validity of ‘translanguaging’, that is, using multiple discursive resources in the classroom, and may help to address some of the issues of power and voice that currently constrain epistemic access. It also enables a different lens on the “intellectualisation” of African languages, one which better captures the complexity and fluidity of postcolonial communicative practices.

Dr Caroline Kerfoot is a Research Fellow in the Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism at Stockholm University. She was previously Head of Department of Language Education at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, for 6 years. Her main research interests are multilingualism and identities in and out of schools; linguistic ethnography; language and literacy policy and practice in multilingual contexts. She has been conducting research into patterns of language and literacy use in playground and classroom interactions in multilingual school environments in and around Cape Town. She has published on languages and literacy in participatory development, focusing on issues of voice and agency

Wednesday 22 May
ELAR Film Day

Films on/in endangered languages (five short films) Wed 22 May, 12-3:30pm, Room 346

Seminar Sorry, this seminar has been cancelled

Endangered Languages and Technology: How can indigenous communities and academics use Silicon Valley for their own needs?
Sarah Ogilvie; Amazon Corporation 1-2pm, Room 4421

Seminar

‘The Bones of Songs’: Exploring the Connections between Kam Minority Music and Language
Catherine Ingram; Department of Music, SOAS 4:30-6:30pm, Room 346 (note room change)

‘The Bones of Songs’: Exploring the Connections between Kam Minority Music and Language

Catherine Ingram; Department of Music, SOAS

For Kam (in Chinese, Dong 侗) minority people living in southwestern China, the lyrics to Kam songs are lak ga - the ‘bones of songs’. These ‘bones of songs’, together with Kam song melodies (the sor or ‘energy/life-force’ of the songs), have formed Kam people’s unique singing traditions that are so central to their culture and history. Several of these rich Kam singing traditions have been recognized by the Chinese government as national items of intangible cultural heritage, and one has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Yet such recognition comes at a time when rural Kam communities are experiencing massive socio-economic transformations, leaving the future of Kam singing uncertain. Today, despite the promotion of Kam song traditions in staged performances and as intangible cultural heritage, implicit knowledge of many aspects of the complex relationship between language and music in Kam singing is dwindling within Kam communities. The relationship has also received little explicit study. In this presentation I discuss some of the main connections between Kam music and language, illustrating how both music and language are crucial for ensuring the sustainability of the centuries-old cultures of indigenous peoples such as the Kam that are now endangered by modernization, globalization, commercialization and massive social change.

Dr Catherine Ingram is a Newton International Research Fellow working on the project Kam Song: Towards an Indigenous Musical Theory. She completed her PhD (Ethnomusicology/Chinese Studies, 2010) at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She first began researching Kam minority musical culture in 2004 and has since conducted over twenty-four months’ musical ethnographic research into UNESCO-recognized Kam ‘big song’ and other Kam singing traditions. She is a former Endeavour Australia Cheung Kong Research Fellow (Australia/China) and International Institute of Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow (The Netherlands).

Thursday 23 May
Workshop

The problem of accounting for TAME and related expressions in the context of language documentation and description
Henrik Bergqvist; Stockholm University 12-3pm, Room FG01 (Faber Building)

Slides

The problem of accounting for TAME and related expressions in the context of language documentation and description

Henrik Bergqvist; Stockholm University

The description and analysis of TAME and related expressions poses a challenge for any field worker aiming to produce a grammatical description based on first-hand data. The first step is to account for the formal properties of relevant forms intra-systemically, as well as in relation to what we have come to expect from established categorical notions, such as tense and aspect. The second step is to address their conceptual content, i.e. what they signal with respect to some proposition. This step is fraught with many problems despite potential success in having charted the grammatical properties of forms and their function in the clause. One clear illustration of this fact is provided by Denis Creissels in his formulation of assertors involvement in Akhvakh (Creissels 2008), which clearly is an instance of the typologically rare conjunct/disjunct pattern (cf. Hale 1980). Creissels’ account highlights the fact that our expectations as linguists may both aid us and mislead us in the analysis of unfamiliar grammatical patterns and subsystems.

This workshop identifies problem areas in accounting for "qualifiers" whose role is to situate some eventuality with respect to dimensions such as ‘time’, ‘knowledge’, and ‘possibility’, or ‘involvement/agency’. These problems are not just analytical, but also constitute a methodological challenge in the data collecting process. Narratives may e.g. be insufficient in allowing for a level of analysis of a set of expressions either from the scarcity of forms or their marked distribution.

On the other hand, basing analyses on conversational data does not guarantee success in revealing the function and meaning of forms that may be highly frequent, but without clear distributional patterns, such as some forms of discourse-like markers. In order to better the chances of appropriate analysis of forms, it is suggested that several techniques are used at once in a form of "triangulatory" analysis that may address different aspects of the forms under investigation. Such techniques involve contextualized elicitation (cf. Hanks 2011) and task-oriented data collection (e.g. San Roque 2012). These strategies are discussed in the workshop along with examples of the role they have played in pinpointing the functional properties of under-documented qualificational systems.

Dr Henrik Bergqvist is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University and works on languages of Mexico and Colombia.

Seminar

Game changers? Multilingual learners in a Cape Flats primary school (South Africa)
Caroline Kerfoot; Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden 5-6pm, Room 4421

This is a joint seminar with the Centre for African Studies

Game changers? Multilingual learners in a Cape Flats primary school (South Africa)

Caroline Kerfoot; Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University, Sweden

The context is a primary school in the largely poor and working class Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa, where new discourses and practices of identity, language, class, ‘race’ and ethnicity become entangled with local economies of meaning. Drawing on classroom and playground data from observations, interviews, and recorded peer interactions, I focus on the practices and interactions of multilingual 10-12 year olds to illuminate complex processes of identification and identity formation. These processes in turn highlight the tensions between the dynamics of social production in everyday practices and a language-in-education policy based on essentialised understandings of ethnicity, ‘race’, and language.

This seminar engages with Bourdieu’s notion of field as a "space of play" (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992: 19) in which social agents struggle over the recognition and relative weight of different forms of capital. It explores what happens to the educational field, and the linguistic regimes operating within it, in a site in which "what was once thought of as separate -- identities, spaces, histories -- come together or find points of intersection in unexpected ways" (Nuttall, 2009: 10) and which, moreover, is characterised by high levels of flux at local, institutional and national scales. In such a situation the regulative principles of the field are not clear, and are constantly contested and renegotiated in classrooms, on playgrounds, and in staff rooms. I hope to draw attention to a set of circumstances in which local actors have the potential to change, not only the rules of the game, but the game itself.

Methodologically the research is situated within Linguistic Ethnography which brings together Interactional Sociolinguistics (IS) and ethnography. IS enables a focus on face-to-face interactions in which there are considerable differences in participants’ forms of capital, and is therefore ideally suited to contexts in which the field of play is uneven and regularly disrupted. Ethnography has counterhegemonic potential which can help to destabilise conventional truths (Blommaert, 2006). Together these lenses enable an angle of vision which may help address persistent, linguistically structured inequalities.

References

Blommaert, J. (2006) Ethnography as counter-hegemony: Remarks on epistemology & method. Working Papers in Urban Language and Literacies, Paper 34, Institute of Education, London. Web link
Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (1st ed.). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.
Nuttall, S. (2009). Entanglement: literary and cultural reflections on post apartheid. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Friday 24 - Saturday 25 May
Conference

APLL6 Conference on Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics
10am-5pm, location: see conference web page

Photos

Tuesday 28 May

Seminar

And still they speak Dieri. Language revitalisation in northern South Australia
Peter Austin; Linguistics, SOAS 1-2pm, Room 116

And still they speak Dieri. Language revitalisation in northern South Australia

Peter Austin; Linguistics, SOAS

To the east of Lake Eyre in northern South Australia a dozen Aboriginal languages were spoken when Europeans first settled the region. Today languages like Thirrari, Karangura, Pirlatapa and Ngamini have no-one who knows them, as the last generation of speakers passed away in the 1970s and 1980s. Just one language from that area continues to be spoken, namely Diyari (also spelled Dieri), traditionally associated with lower Cooper Creek around where Lutheran missionaries established settlements in the 19th century at Killalpaninna (Bethesda) and Koperamanna. The missionaries chose Diyari for use in their work, teaching it in school, translating the Bible and Christian hymns, and speaking it on a daily basis.

In 1974 I began working with Diyari speakers in Maree and Port Augusta to document the language, including making over 70 hours of audio recordings and publishing books and articles. I am currently engaged in developing school materials under an Indigenous Languages Support grant awarded to the Dieri Aboriginal Corporation.

In this talk I will discuss the language situation in the past and present, outline the history of Diyari studies, and present some examples of the language in use, including multimedia being developed (in collaboration with teacher-linguist Greg Wilson) by contemporary speakers who are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people I worked with in the 1970’s. The talk is effectively a progress report on the ILS project, highlighting successes and failures to date, while also reflecting on what our experiences have to say about the concept of ‘language revitalisation’.

See the blog: Ngayana Diyari Yawarra Yathayilha: Supporting the Dieri language.

Seminar

The importance of language documentation and corpora for sign languages
Kearsy Cormier (Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, UCL), Adam Schembri (La Trobe University, Melbourne) & Jordan Fenlon (Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, UCL) 3:30-5pm, Room 4418

BSL interpreters will be present at this event

The importance of language documentation and corpora for sign languages

Kearsy Cormier (Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, UCL), Adam Schembri (La Trobe University, Melbourne) & Jordan Fenlon (Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, UCL)

There is much work that needs to be done within the field of sign language linguistics to further our understanding of the structure and use of sign languages. In particular, there is a pressing need to test the claims made by many existing linguistic descriptions and analyses of sign languages because they have often been based on limited datasets from a small number of signers. This reliance on small datasets is problematic when one considers that sign language use is commonly reported to be highly variable (Schembri & Johnston, 2012). This variability owes much to the fact that sign languages exist in unique sociolinguistic circumstances: they are young minority languages with few native signers and an interrupted pattern of intergenerational transmission. As a consequence, it is often difficult for even native signers to be certain as to what is and is not an acceptable construction in their language.

To resolve these problems, sign linguists are increasingly turning to corpora. A modern linguistic corpus (e.g. the British National Corpus of English) is understood to refer to a large collection of spoken, written or signed language data (with associated metadata) that is in machine-readable form, is maximally representative (as far as is possible) of the language and its users, and can be consulted to study the type and frequency of constructions in a language. The need for corpora is driven by the assumption that processing of large amounts of annotated texts can reveal patterns of language use and structure not available to everyday user intuitions or even to expert detailed analysis.

In addition to benefits for linguists, there are also potential benefits to the deaf community through the creation of sign language corpora. Further empirical research on sign language structure and the documentation of signs used in the language (e.g., via a corpus-based dictionary/lexical database) will inform and improve sign language teaching materials which will, in turn, lead to the improvements in the training of sign language teachers and interpreters, and in the education of deaf children. Sign language corpora also provide an important means of recording sign languages as they are used today for posterity, particularly since they are now increasingly recognised as endangered languages (Johnston, 2004; Nonaka, 2004; Schembri, 2010).

In this presentation we will describe some of the major sign language corpora that now exist or are being developed (including the British Sign Language Corpus) and other language documentation efforts with sign languages. In doing so, we will show how, at a fundamental level, the aims and methodologies of linguistic corpora needn’t be very different from traditional language documentation efforts, and we explore the implications of this for spoken/written languages as well.

Closing event

Closing ceremony
Professor Graham Furniss, Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise) SOAS 5-6pm, Room 4418