written form; "extinct" living languages

Mike_Cahill at SIL.ORG Mike_Cahill at SIL.ORG
Mon Dec 8 15:17:46 UTC 2003

HI all,

Interesting discussion indeed!

Just to respond to one of the remarks Eduardo Ribeiro made below, I know
that the editor of the Ethnologue (Ray Gordon, who has now replaced Barbara
Grimes) realizes its imperfections (probably more than any of you!), but is
always striving to improve it. He does in fact take information from any
source available (Roger Blench, for example, has probably contributed more
information on West Africa than anyone else - and he is not with SIL). If
you have a quarrel with some data (like the two languages you cite as not
actually being extinct), Ray would welcome information accompanied by good
documentation. If there is a conflict of claims, the editor must weigh the
evidence, of course, and it is a given that such a database as the
Ethnologue cannot satisfy everyone. We are unfortunately not omniscient,
but do the best we can.

I would add that the new edition of the Ethnologue will come out in 2004,
and it may have some of the corrections in it. Due to a small staff, we
can't post up-to-date corrections to the web version, which reflects the
2000 edition.


Dr. Michael Cahill
International Linguistics Coordinator, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236

email: mike_cahill at sil.org
phone: 972-708-7328
fax: 972-708-7380

Although I wouldn't question the overall usefulness of
the Ethnologue, I'm afraid it has some inherent flaws which are maybe a
consequence of its missionary background.  The catalogue relies heavily on
the work of SIL members, mostly ignoring the work of non-SIL researchers
least for the languages with which I'm familiar).  Ofayé was declared
'extinct' by an SIL missionary more than three decades ago, although
research by non-SIL linguists in the subsequent decades--and most
importantly, the tireless campaigning of the Ofayé leaders for ethnic
recognition--have proven that the language is still spoken.

These were my two South American 'centavos'...  Thanks for the interesting



Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro
Department of Linguistics (University of Chicago)
Museu Antropológico (Universidade Federal de Goiás, Brazil)

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