conference announcement

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 14 12:50:22 UTC 2005

Forwarded from Linguist-List

Conference on Undescribed & Endangered Languages

Date: 29-Sep-2005 - 29-Sep-2005
Location: Viterbo, Lazio, Italy
Contact: Amedeo De Dominicis
Contact Email:
Meeting URL:

Meeting Description:

At present, most human languages are spoken by exceedingly few people. And
that majority, the majority of languages, is about to vanish. Ethnologue,
the most authoritative source on the languages of the world, lists just
over 6,500 living languages. Population figures are available for just
over 6,000 of them (or 92%). Of these 6,000, 52% are spoken by fewer than
10,000 people; 28% by fewer than 1,000; and 83% are restricted to single
countries, and so are particularly exposed to the policies of a single
government. On the other hand, 10 major languages, each spoken by more
than 109 million people, are the mother tongues of almost half (49%) of
the world's population.

This loss of linguistic diversity is weakening the unique ethnoscientific
knowledge hidden in such languages. From the scientific point of view, the
loss of a knowledge system also implies another kind of loss. Linguistics,
anthropology, prehistory and psychology lose another precious source of
data, another diverse and unique way the human mind can use to express
itself through a language structure and vocabulary.  Particularly,
linguistic theories miss a crucial part of their objects because the value
of endangered or undescribed languages often lies in the complexity that
characterises them and and through which they challenge linguistic

That is the reason why in the title of this conference we put together
'undescribed and endangered languages': both cases induce a loss in
linguistic knowledge and in the complexity of linguistic theories.

10:00-10:30 Welcoming Remarks

10:30-11:15 Suzanne Romaine (Merton College, University of Oxford):
for survival- some responses to language endangerment.

11:15-12:00 Ian Maddieson (University of California, Berkeley): Endangered
Languages, Endangered Sounds.

12:00-12:45 Peter Ladefoged (University of California, Los Angeles):
Archiving the sounds of an endangered language.

12:45-13:30 Maurizio Gnerre (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli):
Fading out voices, prosodies and rhythms: a neglected aspect of language

13:30-15:30 Lunch Break

15:30-16:15 Roberto Ajello (Universita' di Pisa): The importance of having
a description of the endangered languages: the case of Gizey (Cameroon).

16:15-17:00 Antonino Melis (Universite' de N'Djamena, Tchad): Ham: une
langue et une culture en danger de disparition au Tchad.

17:00-17:45 Amedeo De Dominicis (Universita' della Tuscia, Viterbo): Tonal
patterns of Gizey (Cameroon): first description and language preservation.

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