Draft LLD Call for Interest

David Cheezem dcheezem at alaska.net
Tue Jun 4 06:08:10 UTC 1996

The following is a draft of a "Call for Interest" for a steering committee
that would direct the evolving "Lost (or something) Language Day," project

I would like to hear comments and ideas about this draft from as many
people as possible.

                     *****Draft *****
                  Call for Interest:
      Global "Lost Language Day" Project Steering Committee

 To:  Those Active in Cultural and Language Survival Issues

1)  Preamble
2)  Organization
3)  Draft of Lost Language Day template
4)  List of people and organizations involved so far

1)  Preamble

We are calling on interested parties to participate in a global "Steering
Committee" that will support local activities observing "Lost Language
Day."  (LLD).  These local activites will include the passing out of
flyers, public readings, concerts, lobbying, etc. and will take place in
cities, towns, villages - wherever we can get support.  The activities will
be as simple or as complicated as the local organizers would like them to

It is not clear how many languages face extinction each year, but one
source has it that up to 95% of the world's 6,000 languages will be
"extinct or moribund by the end of the next century." (*)  It would be one
thing for a language to fade as result of real choice, but, as has been
pointed out many times, these deaths are not natural - they are the result
of social factors over which we have control.  And yet, it is safe to say,
most speakers of "unendangered" languages are not aware of these issues.
Many would go so far as to celebrate the dying out of cultures as some sort
of evolutionary necessity, as "progress."  We want to reach as many of
these voters and taxpayers as possible, to educate the public with a
diverse, world-wide statement -- a statement that mourns what is lost, and
celebrates and contributes to the vitality of indigenous cultures.

Of course, the loss of languages is just one facet of the overall threat to
indigenous peoples, just a piece of the puzzle that includes  the
expropriation and destruction of land, the forced removals, the
disintegration of communities, even physical elimination of indigenous
peoples.   As we work to develop activities to mourn the loss of languages
- and to educate the public about these losses - it is important to keep
this larger context in mind,  and to support the struggles of indigenous
peoples around the world to preserve their cultural and linguistic identity
and their viability and dignity as full-fledged human societies.

This impetus for Lost Language Day observances can be summed up by Nobel
Peace Prize Laureaute Rigobera Menchu':

        "Freedom for indigenous peoples wherever they are - this is my
cause.  It was not born out of something good; it was born out of
wretchedness and bitterness.  It has been radicalized by the poverty of my
people, the malnutrition that I as an Indian have seen and experienced, the
exploitations I have felt in my own flesh, and the oppression that prevents
us from performing our sacred ceremonies, showing no respect for the way we

(From her introduction to _Endangered Peoples_  By Art Davidson, Sierra
Club Books, 1993)

 2)  Organization

It is assumed that anyone active in cultural survival issues shares at
least this one basic  value:  unity-in-diversity.  The organization of LLD
will echo that value:  The global Steering Committee will serve as an
intellectual resource for local groups responsible for organizing diverse
-- perhaps even divergent -- activities on the as yet to be determined

At the heart of the activities will be a series of  flyers that each local
group will post  There will be as many different flyers as possible, each
dealing with a different language.  (See the sample draft template below.)
Other local actions could include readings, concerts, public service
announcements,  etc.

The Steering Committee will

         *  set the date
>       *  research, write, and translate  the flyers
            (Made available in as  many  languages as  possible)
 >      * research, write and design educational material >
          * produce form press releases for local 'nodes' to release >
         *  handle national and international media contacts
         * contact relevant national and international organizations for
           support to the initiative  >
         * recruit organizers for each local 'node' >
         * set up a web site

 The local nodes will
          *  print the flyers >
         *  inform  the local press >
         *  organize activities such as "readings," classroom visits, etc.

 3)  Sample *Draft* Template of the Flyer

    "[headline]  You may never see these words again

This is a statement written in the __________ language. The last known
speaker of this langauge was ______________ who died in 19__.  We are not
translating the statement because,  in a small way, we want to emphasize
the loss of meaning and knowledge that occurs when a language dies  out as
a native tongue.  Printing a few words will not bring back the fabric of
life that accompanies a living language, so we share them only in mourning
-- and in the hope that you will support efforts by people everywhere to
preserve their languages.

                       [a short untranslated text, phonetically rendered.]

 We urge you to find out more about indigenous peoples around the world,
and to work to halt all further destruction of indigenous  languages and
cultures.  For more information, contact... "

4) List of people and organizations involved so far

-Terralingua (contacts: Luisa Maffi, Dave Harmon) -Foundation for
Endangered Languages  (contact: Nicholas Ostler) -Arbeitsgruppe Bedrohte
Sprachen [Working Group on Endangered Languages] (Contact: Hans-Ju"rgen
Sasse) -Linguistic Society of America's Committee on Endangered Languages
and their Preservation (contacts: Akira Yamamoto, Scott DeLancey) -Karl
Teeter (Harvard U.; contact for northeastern US/New England) -Rosemary
Henze (non-profit, minority education; contact for San Francisco Bay Area
and Hawai'i)

 (The idea for a Lost Language Day observance was first suggested by David
Cheezem on the Endangered Languages - L listserve.)

(*) Prof. Michael Krauss, cited in "The Centre for Theories of Language and
Learning, University of Bristol Department of Philosophy Report of the
seminar held on April 21st 1995 on The Conservation of Endangered

David C. Cheezem
Suite 2B
Sleepy Dog Coffee Building
11517 Old Glenn Highway
Eagle River, Alaska  99577
dcheezem at alaska.net

David C. Cheezem
Suite 2B
Sleepy Dog Coffee Building
11517 Old Glenn Highway
Eagle River, Alaska  99577
dcheezem at alaska.net

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