Workshop on languages of Afghanistan and its neighbors

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Sep 2 18:23:30 UTC 2003

Dear Colleagues:

This is to announce that a workshop focused on Languages and Language Policy
in and around Afghanstan will be held December 12-14 at the University of
Pennsylvania. The workshop is funded by the Pedagogical Materials Project of
the South Asia Language Resource Center; the South Asia Center of the
University of Pennsylvania; the Consortium for Language Policy and Planning;
and the Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning.  The workshop will
begin Friday p.m. (after lunch) and run all day Saturday, with a wrap-up
session on Sunday morning, December 14. We will have different sessions to
focus on different language groups, as well as session(s) on language policy
issues in the area.  After the various groups have met separately, there will
be joint sessions to discuss matters of common interest.

You can register on-line by clicking on "Online Form for Registration"
link at the top of the registration page at:  Please make sure
to indicate which language area you are most interested in, by clicking on
the pull-down menu for this.

The idea of having a workshop on this topic has been bandied about a bit
but without our being able to make any decision about dates or times.
Earlier I tried to schedule something for May of this year, but that did
not suit very many people.

a.  The funds we have for this in our South Asia Title 6 Center budget can
be used until the end of this calendar year, but not later than that.

b.  I have to be away from Philadelphia in late November and/or early
December, and classes end here on the 8th of December.  Accordingly, I am
scheduling this workshop to take place on the weekend of December 12 and 13,
with a wrap-up session on Sunday morning the 14th.

c. We have determined that the Sheraton hotel here at Penn has rooms
available at those times, and have tentatively booked 20 rooms for that
weekend.  If you register on-line, we can save a room at the Sheraton for
you, at the Penn rate of $139 per night.

Purpose of this workshop:

(a) To survey what languages are spoken in the area in and around
Afghanistan, i.e. in Afghanistan and its neighboring states (Iran,
Pakistan, western China, and the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.  It would also be
useful to know not just in general what languages are spoken, but where a
group that has a "homeland" (e.g. Uzbekistan) also exists as a minority in
adjacent territories. The fact that Afghanistan has never had a national
census in its existence and the lack of data for Pakistan since Grierson's
survey, plus a lot of uncertainty and dubious data for other areas leads
some of to think this is not going to be a simple task.

(b) I assume that people attending this workshop who have some expertise
in any part of these areas would come armed with resources and data and be
able to report to the rest of us, i.e. we would have sessions where we
share hard data. Alternatively, you have some expertise and interest in
language policy, linguistic minorities, or other ethno-linguistic issues
in the area.

(c) We also need to know about literacy and education using the languages
of this area, and similarly would expect that people would report on where
Pashto, e.g. is used as a language of literacy, and where not, and what
kinds of bilingualism and multilingualism, and concomitant biliteracy and
multiliteracy also exist(s).

(d) Language Policy in the areas in question: things have changed in a
number of places (e.g. Central Asian republics) since the collapse of the
Soviet Union, and new developments in language policy need to be
chronicled.  Things may also be changing elsewhere in the region.

(e) Refugee Issues: there are reported to be as many as 2.5 million
refugees from Afghanistan residing in adjacent areas.  What is being done
for them in terms of education and literacy, and in what language(s)? What
needs to be developed?

(f) Funding for this workshop:  The Title 6 South Asia Center at Penn has
some money for this workshop, but not an unlimited amount.  The Consortium
for Language Teaching and Learning has given us a small grant, and I am
also hoping that the SSRC could contribute something to this effort. The
South Asia Language Resource Center (Chicago and Penn) will also cover
some costs.  Since there are language policy issues involved, I would want
to involve people from the Consortium for Language Policy and Planning.

(g) Publication: some sort of report on the above needs to be produced,
either by a committee appointed for the task,  or perhaps a graduate student
who can be identified to do this work.

(h) Publicity: After you receive this announcement, please feel free to
circulate it further to interested parties, with the caveat that funding
is very meager and we will not be able to cover expenses for most

Hal Schiffman

			  Harold F. Schiffman

Professor of Dravidian Linguistics and Culture                       Director
Dept. of South Asia Studies                     Pedagogical Materials Project,
820 Williams Hall, Box 6305                South Asia Language Resource Center

			University of Pennsylvania
			Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

       			Phone:  (215) 898-5825
			Fax:  (215) 573-2138

			Email:  haroldfs at


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