Endangered Languages in Museum

Christian Chiarcos christian.chiarcos at WEB.DE
Sat Aug 31 08:57:48 UTC 2013

But, an alternative way of presentation could be the plant/garden  
metaphor. It is also used commercially, e.g., by busuu.com, and seems to  
be intuitively understandable:

- a flourishing tree with words at its leaves and a few books beneath for  
something obviously vivid (for children in Germany, a joint presentation  
of German and, say, Turkish could be a good idea, and as an audio  
component, one may add a record of playing kids),

- a tree stump along with stones, ruins and bones for something long gone  
and forgotten (you could take Latin, but Celtic might make more sense, in  
large parts of Germany, it had been the major language before Roman  
conquest and Germanic immigration, it is poorly documented, and there  
seems to be some interest in reconstructed "Gaulish" as part of the  
general pop culture. On the Continental Celtic list, the band Eluveitie  
was discussed a while ago, and their song Brictom [see  
http://eluveitie.ch/discography] whose text originates from authentic  
epigraphic record seems to be appropriate for children.)

- in between a drought-strucken tree with words at its leaves, plus a pile  
of words fallen down already, maybe presented together with some  
culture-specific items, pictures and audio snippets. So, basically, the  
tree replaces the coffin.

Of course, three installations require more space than one coffin (I guess  
the drought-strucken tree in isolation won't work), but they (or, at  
least, the other two) could be realized symbolically in small show cases,  
depending on your budget and space constraints.

All the best,

NB: I guess Native American languages and cultures such as Margaret's  
Ojibwe data might work particularly well in Germany. If you are looking  
for an individual language that your audience will emphasize with  
immediately, you might be interested to know that the apparent mother  
tongue of Karl May's Winnetou, Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache is critically  

On Fri, 30 Aug 2013 18:35:25 +0200, Margaret Ann Noodin <noodin at uwm.edu>  

> Ah!  What a relief to hear others find the coffin scary.  I can see the  
> power of the metaphor but if this display is for children at your museum  
> I hope coffins are not familiar to them (as they might be for some  
> children in the world right now).
> Have you considered the metaphor of the children themselves?  Or of  
> something comforting?  Maybe a rocking chair with words painted all over  
> it?  Or a swing with words entwined in the ropes that hold it up?  Or a  
> rocket ship to the stars built of panels with different phrases from  
> earth?
> For any of those I would be happy to contribute something in  
> Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe).
> Here is a poem of mine which is also a song. Feel free to use words,  
> lines or the entire poem. Let me know if you would like an MP3 of the  
> audio.
> No matter what you do - keep us posted and thanks for sharing a concern  
> for languages with the public!
> Waawaatese by Margaret Noodin
> Aanii ezhi pagozi dibikgiizis? / How does moonlight taste?
> Aanii ezhi noodin pagwad / How much does the wind weigh?
> Aanii ezhi ezhichigeyaamba / What do I need to do
> Ji-nsostaawaag waawaateseg / to understand the fireflies?
> Jiimaanan ina n'ga pagadanan giizhigong / Throw kisses or canoes to  
> heaven?
> Maage mikzhaweyaanh gdo'wiikweodenong / Or row to a heart's shore?
> N'wii bodewaadiz gonemaa / Perhaps I will set myself alight
> Miidash tonaanan shkodensan shpemsigong / then place the flames in the  
> sky
> Anongziibike minajiwong dibikong / making a river flowing through night
> Miidash wii baashkaazoying dibishko / where explosions echo
> Zaagigaabaag ziigwaning. / the bursting leaves of Spring.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Austin" <pa2 at SOAS.AC.UK>
> Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2013 11:56:21 PM
> Subject: Re: Endangered Languages in Museum
> Will there be a day when this death and dying metaphor can be put to  
> rest? A coffin? My goodness, can't we be a little bit more creative? And  
> a little bit more sensitive?
> How about sharing some lessons from communities working to revitalise  
> their languages? There are lots of games, apps and other fun interactive  
> things for kids to do that are freely available on the internet now. Put  
> a nice package of them together and sensitise the kids to how languages  
> are threatened but communities are responding to strengthen their  
> languages. You could start by looking at www.firstvoices.com and moving  
> on from there.
> That's my 2p worth.
> Peter Austin
> On Friday, 30 August 2013, Lena Terhart < lena.terhart at gmx.de > wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> the UNIKATUM children's museum in Leipzig, Germany, is preparing an  
>> exhibition on language (  
>> http://www.kindermuseum-unikatum.de/papperlapapp.html in German). I  
>> thought it would be nice to present language endangerment as part of  
>> the exhibition and together with the responsible people of the museum,  
>> we are now thinking about one exhibit, probably a coffin that shall be  
>> filled with words that may die out.
>> In order to present a big variety of endangered languages, I would like  
>> to ask you to contribute with
>> - a list of max. 5 words in the endangered language (basic vocabulary,  
>> something that may be interesting for children, e.g. animals, plants,  
>> natural phenomena, or maybe also simple verbs)
>> - in the orthographic convention you use
>> - together with a translation
>> - and some basic info about the geographic location and number and age  
>> of speakers or alternatively a link to your website where I can find  
>> the information
>> Additionally, photographs of the speakers and/or environment could be  
>> very nice, and ideally also recordings of the words (MP3), but that is  
>> not a requisite - I know that the search for individual words and  
>> cutting process may be too time-consuming.
>> The mounting of the exhibition will start on the 16th of september  
>> already so that I need the word lists until the 13th latest.
>> Thanks!
>> Lena
Christian Chiarcos
Applied Computational Linguistics
Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universit├Ąt Frankfurt a. M.
60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

office: Robert-Mayer-Str. 10, #401b
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