Endangered Languages Conference (fwd)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Feb 25 13:12:30 UTC 2002

Call for Abstracts:

FEL VI: "Endangered Languages and their Literatures:
Building a Past for the Future"

Antigua, Guatemala. 8-10 August 2002

One of the most powerful functions of a language is that of
repository for the culture and worldview of its speakers.  Its
grammar and lexicon store the shared experiences of past generations,
and a language is the channel by which these images, emotions,
knowledge and beliefs are transmitted to the next.  A language does
not just transmit messages; it decorates them aesthetically, and so
facilitates their reception and retention.

Thus literature, both in spoken and written forms, is a key crossover
point between the life of a language and the lives of its speakers.
Literature gives a language prestige; and knowledge of its literature
enriches a language's utility for its speakers.  Both act to build
the loyalty of speakers to their own language.  All these effects
then reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.
What exactly is the relationship between a minority language facing
increased pressure and its literatures? Does the oral and/or written
tradition hold a key to the languages future survival? The sixth
international conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages
aims to pinpoint the processes and seek new tactics for looking at
literary traditions as a means of promoting the vitality of small

We hope to find answers to many questions, not all of them obvious.
For example:
*       The (re)writing of our history: How endangered language
communities seek to establish a stronger  sense of their past on
which to build their future?
*       How does the power of language preserve and propagate aspects
of cultural tradition and stimulate new departures in keeping with
the old?
*       Emerging literatures and literacies: What are the pedagogical
and linguistic issues involved in EL literary production?
*       How does the use of creative-writing workshops,
poetry-festivals and literary contests impact language revitalization?
*       How do oral literatures and their transmission across
generations help revitalize endangered languages or to reverse
*       Translation issues (from and into EL):  Who is the target
audience and what is the target effect?
*       What are the symbolic as well as communicative functions of
endangered languages in literature?
*       How do efforts from within the community to maintain language
address its literary tradition?

To seek answers to these and other questions, the Foundation for
Endangered Languages hereby calls for papers to be presented at its
fifth conference, Endangered Languages and their Literatures,
planned for Antigua, Guatemala, for 8-10 August 2002.

It is no coincidence that we choose this venue for the conference, at
the gateway to the densest Mayan population in the world.  Though
most are familiar with the marvels of Mayan achievements in
pre-Columbian times, focusing on the past leads many to assume that
when the great cities of the Classic Period were abandoned the Mayas
did not simply return to the surrounding countryside, but disappeared
altogether.  Yet it is precisely in this countryside, in thousands of
small rural communities that the Mayas and their distinct identity
have survived to number over seven million today.  Here they carry
out life ways as inscribed on ancient stones: the counting of days on
their unique calendar, the daily preparation of sacred corn on the
grinding stone, weaving garments of intricate designs at the back
strap loom, and the use of their languages.

The Mayas have withstood centuries of hardship, oppression and
persecution with their cultures and languages largely intacta feat
no less impressive than the construction of giant pyramids.  However,
the forces of globalizationas manifested in national schools, mass
media, accelerated migration, and a cash economycontinue to encroach
upon and penetrate the Mayan world, endangering their languages as
never before.  The signing of Peace Accords in 1996 signaled the
close of 35 years of civil war known as la violencia whose impact
upon the Mayas was particularly cruel and devastating.

However, in recent years, a growing movement has sprouted from the
ashes of la violencia, seeking to recover the Mayas rightful place
in national life.  This movement has largely shunned frontal assaults
on the political system in favor of education and literacy in Mayan
languages, and the publication of dictionaries, teaching materials,
and diverse forms of Mayan literature.  Mayan organizations are now
active in diverse fields, such as health, agriculture, community
development, and Mayan religion.  All promote the use of Mayan
languages both as a symbol of collective identity and as
communicative medium.

Antigua, Spanish colonial capital of Central America, is an
architectural gem nestled in the verdant Guatemalan highlands.
Though less than an hour from the bustling capital of Guatemala City,
the cobblestone streets and tile roofs of Antigua belong to another,
slower age.  Antigua is home to several Mayan language revitalization
organizations, and also serves as a gateway to the Mayan towns and
villages, as well as the scenic splendors of the Guatemalan
We invite contributions not only from the academic disciplines of
linguistics and literature/comparative literature, but also from
active practitioners in the field with first-hand experience from
which we can learn of the worlds threatened languages and their
struggle for survival and equal status with those of international
communication in the ether and on the printed page. We have much to
learn from each other, and we invite you to share your knowledge and
experience with us in the beautiful setting of a historic town that
has long been a point of contact between diverse cultures and
languages. The conference will also provide ample opportunity to
explore the surrounding area as well.

The Foundation for Endangered Languages is a registered charity in
England and Wales. FEL conferences, besides being opportunities to
discuss the issues from a global viewpoint, are working meetings of
the Foundation, defining our overall policy for future years.
Participants at the conference therefore, unless offering media
coverage, need to be members of the Foundation. There are full
facilities to join on arrival, but all proposers are strongly urged
to join as soon as possible, and so take full part in the
Foundations activities in the lead-up to the conference.

Presentations will last twenty minutes each, with a further ten
minutes for discussion. Authors will be expected to submit a written
paper for publication in the Proceedings well in advance of the
conference. All presentations should be accessible largely in English
or Spanish, but use of the languages of interest, for quotation or
exemplification, may well be appropriate.

McKenna Brown, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Gaspar Pedro Gonza'lez, Asociacio'n Cultural B'eyb'al, Guatemala
Nicholas Ostler, FEL, Bath, England
Chris Moseley, BBC Monitoring Service, England
Mahendra Verma, University of York, England
Karen Johnson-Weiner, SUNY-Potsdam, USA
Blair Rudes, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, USA

Abstract Submission
Abstracts should not exceed 500 words. They can be submitted in
either of two ways: (preferably) by electronic submission, but also
on paper. They should be in English.

A) Electronic submission:
Electronic submission (by 15 Marchl 2002) should be as attachment in
Word format in email message to mbrown at saturn.vcu.edu.

B) Paper abstracts:
Three copies should be sent, (again, for delivery by 15 March 2002),
R. McKenna Brown, Virginia Commonwealth University, International
Studies Program, Box 843080, Richmond, VA 23284-3080 USA (fax
This should have a clear short title, but should not bear anything to
identify the author(s).
On a separate sheet, please include the following information:
NAME : Names of the author(s)
TITLE: Title of the paper
EMAIL: Email address of the first author, if any
ADDR: Postal address of the first author
TEL: Telephone number of the first author, if any
FAX: Fax number of the first author, if any
The name of the first author will be used in all correspondence.
If possible, please also send an e-mail to R. McKenna Brown at
mbrown at saturn.vcu.edu informing him of the hard copy submission. This
is in case the hard copy does not reach its destination. This e-mail
should contain the information specified in the above section.

Important Dates

*       Abstract submission deadline March 15
*       Committees decision April 15
*       Authors submit camera-ready text June 3
*       Conference August 8-10

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