ELL: Wall Street Journal editorial

Akira Y. Yamamoto akira at KU.EDU
Sun Mar 31 01:48:11 UTC 2002

Excellent comments, thank you, Claire and all.  All these discussions and
comments lead us to an important task for us: we need to make the general
public, as well as those who have influence on policy making including
media people, aware of the ethnolinguistic or minority language situations,
of the cultural and intellectual values of languages, and of sheer pleasure
(not pain) of having diverse languages among us.  To begin with, the
following organizations may be the places to do such work -- in addition
there are a number of excellent conferences organized (e.g. on language

UNESCO has supported a number of cultural preservation projects throughout
the world.  They have also encouraged preservation and development of
minority languages.  Contact:
	Madame Noriko Aikawa, Chief of Section
	Intangible Cultural Heritage Section
	7, Place de Fontenoy
	75700 Paris
	Tel: 33-1 45 68 45 19; Fax: 33-1 42 73 04 01

Deutsche Gesellschaft f殲 Sprachwissenschaft. Arbeitsgruppe Bedrohte
Sprachen. [Contact: Hans-J殲gen Sasse, Chair, University of K嗟n.
<am015 at rsl.rrz.Uni-Koeln.de>]
Purpose is to draw attention to endangered languages and their
documentation; to promote field work in graduate curricula; and to develop
sources of support for endangered language field work.

Foundation for Endangered Languages. [Contact: Dr. Nicholas Ostler,
President, Batheaston Villa, 172 Bailbrook Lane, Bath, BA1 7AA, England;
Phone +44-1225-85-2865; Fax: +44-1225-85-9258;
<nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk>]
The Foundation supports, enables, and assists the documentation, protection
and promotion of endangered languages.

TERRALINGUA. [Contact: Dr. Luisa Maffi, President, Department of
Psychology, Northwestern University, 102 Swift Hall, 2029 Sheridan Road,
Evanston, Illinois 60208-2710, <maffi at nwu.edu>; Dr. David Harmon,
Secretary, The George Wright Society, P.O. Box 65, Hancock, Michigan
49930-0065, <gws at portage1.portup.com>]
TERRALINGUA is the name of a nonprofit, nongovernmental international
organization devoted to preserving the worldユs linguistic diversity, and to
investigating parallels and links between biological and cultural diversity.

The Endangered Language Fund. [Dr. Doug Whalen, President; Department of
Linguistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520;
<whalen at haskins.yale.edu>]
Nonprofit organization devoted to the scientific study of endangered
languages; the support of community-initiated preservation efforts; the
broader dissemination of the linguistic results of these efforts.

>Dear all,
>> Just a few comments:
>> 1. we can be definitely sure that more people "out there" (in the "real"
>> world, not in this list) prefer Bic Mac to grub. We have an objective proof:
>> if more people wanted grub, McDonald's would be selling grub. Therefore:
>My original tongue/grub-in-cheek posting was taken much more seriously
>than I intended! and I probably should have admitted from the start that
>I'm a vegetarian. While it usually won't offend anyone if I refuse a big
>mac, refusing a hunk of subcutaneous turtle fat or <insert organic matter
>of choice> would have been very rude to the old ladies who saved it
>specially for me (ultimately the main reason a lot of us end up eating
>weird stuff, right?)
>> 3. I wouldn't want Bourdieu to teach me what "free market" means. Nobody has
>> ever said that a market decision always works to the best interest of those
>> who make it. Certainly not Adam Smith and the liberal thinkers. We make bad
>> decisions everyday - we buy things which don't work or which we discover we
>> could have bought for a better price. But our decisions are still free - we
>> can be persuaded to buy unnecessary things, OK. But to be persuaded to do X
>Richard Trudgen has written an excellent book on this sort of thing in
>Australia (particularly concerning Yolngu speakers from Arnhemland, but it
>applies equally well to many other parts of the country too); it's called
>"Why warriors lie down and die."
>Someone made a comment in a recent posting about separating the languages
>from the speakers, and asked why we should preserve the languages if the
>speakers themselves don't want to speak them. A lot of Aboriginal people
>I've talked to have said things along the lines of their parents gave up
>their languages and talked English to their children because they thought
>it would give them better opportunities to get a job and have a better
>life. It didn't work because most of the other factors of disadvantage are
>still there - terrible health conditions, terrible nutrition, terrible
>educational opportunities, very limited employment opportunities (because
>of the above), psychologically often very stressful living conditions
>(alcohol abuse, domestic violence, very high youth suicide and the like).
>So the opportunities for their kids aren't considerably better, AND
>they've lost their language and culture, with nothing much to replace it.
>Most of these languages are moribund and nothing is going to make young
>kids suddenly start speaking them in the near future. However, there is
>nothing to say that sometime in the future such communities won't have an
>interest in language revival. (See, for example, Rob Amery's account of
>Kaurna language revival.) Surely it's in both linguists' and communities'
>best interests to do as thorough job as possible, In the community I was
>working in last year, for example, there were about 30 speakers of the
>language, all over 55. They were pushing the language documentation and
>revival project; with a few exceptions most of the community didn't care
>(they had no objection to the project taking place, they just weren't
>interested in it).
>Now, neither language documentation projects or any language revival
>projects have much economic "value", but I believe it's a very big mistake
>to measure things like this in purely economic terms. The preservation of
>historic buildings, for instance, makes little economic sense; funding for
>the arts, the National Portrait Gallery, for example, are an economic
>waste of time. If we didn't spend money on things like this we'd be
>"better off" ecomonically, but not culturally.
>So, if we choose to view these things purely economically and decide that
>it isn't "worth it" to preserve in some form the many highly endangered
>languages we can still do something about, we'd better be damn sure we're
>doing the right thing, and that we're not going to decide in 40 years time
>that we really could have afforded it, after all.
>Claire Bowern
>Department of Linguistics
>Harvard University
>305 Boylston Hall
>Cambridge, MA, 02138
>Endangered-Languages-L Forum: endangered-languages-l at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
>Web pages http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/lists/endangered-languages-l/
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Akira Y. Yamamoto
The University of Kansas
Department of Anthropology
Fraser Hall 622
1415 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, KS 66045-7556
Phone: (785) 864-2645
FAX: (785) 864-5224
Anthropology: http://www.ukans.edu/~kuanth/
Linguistics: http://www.linguistics.ukans.edu/

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