Call for papers: Latin American Contexts for Language Documentation and Revitalization

Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada jrosesla at
Mon Apr 16 15:38:40 UTC 2012

It seems like the attachments did not make it through the listserv. Our
apologies. Here is the call again both as an attachment and in the body of
the email.

Best wishes,
Jorge Emilio

Call for Abstracts
Joint LSA-SSILA session entitled “Latin American Contexts for Language
Documentation and Revitalization” for the 2013 Annual Meeting

To be held during the LSA 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston, MA from 3 to 6
January 2013, this panel’s main goal is to broaden the discussion initiated
by the 2013 session entitled “From Language Documentation to Language
Revitalization”, to address the particulars of language documentation and
revitalization in Latin America.

While there has been a significant increase in the awareness of the needs,
best practices, and goals of language documentation projects in the field
of linguistics, the focus has been predominately on North American
languages (especially within the US). The greatest genetic diversity in
languages is found in Latin America, home to over 100 distinct language
families and isolates. Language communities range from sizeable communities
of languages with official status such as certain varieties of Guaraní,
Quechua and Aymara, to communities of highly endangered languages with
limited attention from communities, scholars and governments, as is the
case of many Mesoamerican and Amazonian languages. The context in which
language documentation might be conducted throughout Latin American and the
challenges facing revitalization efforts are unique and cannot be
extrapolated from the North American experience. This session therefore
intends to give the Latin American context the focus and attention it
requires by highlighting the key differences and needs for communities
outside the US. It is understood that language documentation and
revitalization in Latin America present complex issues and challenges which
range across disciplines and sub-disciplines, and which have the potential
to alter the methodologies, processes and expected outcomes in documenting
and revitalizing languages in this part of the world.

This session will address the various factors affecting language
documentation and revitalization and will feature six case studies selected
through competitive abstract submission to highlight the various ways in
which these factors interact, and to provide broad geographic coverage.

The following is a list of issues and challenges language documenters
and/or activists may face while working in Latin America. The list is just
suggestive rather than comprehensive and it is intended to provide you with
clues of some of the factors that might be worth exploring.

*1. Resources*
a. Community-internal resources range from limited to non-existent in Latin
American societies many of which are dependent on subsistence agriculture,
hunter-gathering, or, small scale trade and services.
b. State and federal resources, if available, are generally very limited
and not efficiently administered.
c. Technology-enabled access is not a given in a substantial portion of
Latin American communities.
d. Access to resources (e.g. grants, archives, telecommunications, academic
scholars, training) for community members not residing in major urban areas
is generally extremely limited
e. Resources might only be available in dominant languages such as Spanish
or English making access to conferences, training and other resources
restricted to monolingual speakers of any given language. Even bilingual
speakers of their language and Spanish or Portuguese are shut out of
English-based resources and exchange opportunities such as most US based
conferences and training opportunities.

*2. Community engagement and motivation*
a. Cultural constructs and/or social priorities may not allow for
community-wide acknowledgement of a language endangerment situation.
b. Different degrees of language vitality may lead to different levels of
community engagement and motivation.
c. Subsistence, cultural and social priorities may interfere with the
ability to develop partnerships between community members and external
3. Linguistic and dialectal diversity*
a. Linguistic diversity is uniquely complex in Latin America with
concentrations of numerous dialectal varieties or even mutually
unintelligible and/or genetically unrelated languages in small geographic
areas demand very high investments in intellectual and economic resources
to ensure impact.

*4. Literacy and institutionalized education*
a. Widespread institutionalized education is relatively recent in many
areas in Latin America.
b. Widespread literacy cannot be assumed.

*5. Expected outcomes and outcome formats*
a. Factors 1 to 4 above require small scale, customized strategies and
national level approaches along the lines of a national or even a regional
Breath of Life are not feasible.
b. Success in documentation and revitalization is a notion that needs to be
customized based on the case specific interaction of Factors 1 to 4.
c. Language communities in Latin America are complex and often have
different agendas for language revitalization which will often not include
formal education or extra-curricular educational programs.

*6. Geographic distance*
a. Location of a given community and access to it with regards to the
researcher’s place of residence may compromise the continuity of
collaborative documentation and especially, of collaborative revitalization

*7. Ethics, human subjects, and IRB requirements*
a. Most Latin American societies do not share the concerns that
significantly condition a US-based researcher’s ability to conduct language
documentation or to access funding to support it.
b. IRB requirements such as signed consent forms may be misinterpreted by
centuries-old experiences of abuse through administrative devices such as
written and signed documents, and may be a source of distrust.

Presentations will be 20 minutes in length, followed by a 10-minute
discussion period (or shorter depending on number of submissions). Based on
participants’ interest, a poster session might be added to the special
Please submit your abstract in keeping with LSA 2013 Annual Meeting
Abstract Guidelines and Specifications available at, by e-mail attachment (as
Word, RTF or PDF files – please use PDF if there are any potential problems
with fonts) to documentation.revitalization at Please write
‘ABSTRACT FOR LSA-SSILA SPECIAL SESSION’ in the subject line. Make the
abstract as anonymous as possible, and include a title. In the body of your
e-mail message, include the following:

   - Title of the abstract:
   - Word count
   - Author(s):
   - Affiliation(s):
   - Date submitted:

The deadline for submission of abstracts is April 27, 2012. The anonymous
abstracts will be refereed by the panel organizing committee, and authors
will be notified of inclusion to the proposed session by May 15. A final
decision of LSA-SSILA acceptance of the special session falls outside of
the organizers’ control and will be communicated to authors by late
Summer/early Fall.
Panel organizing committee:

Gabriela Pérez Báez, Smithsonian Institution, perezbaezg at
Chris Rogers, University of Utah, at
Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada, University of Western Ontario, jrosesla at
Further information regarding the 87th LSA Annual Meeting can be found at

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