CFP: FEL VII: Maintaining the Links: Language, Identity and the Land; Broome WA, 22-24 Sept 2003

Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Thu Jan 30 13:28:42 UTC 2003

Call for Abstracts

Seventh International Conference hosted by the
Foundation for Endangered Languages
Maintaining the Links: Language, Identity and the Land.

Broome, Western Australia, September 22nd - 24th 2003

Minority language groups around the world are endeavouring to
maintain their languages, traditions and identities in the face of
immense pressures from more dominant languages and cultures in their

Some languages express identity or ethnicity in terms of having and
controlling the traditional language normally associated with a
particular tract of land. Many other languages, English included,
often refer to various ethnic groups and their language varieties in
terms of a connection to a particular region, even if only a
historical one. Some groups who have been either displaced from their
traditional lands or have emigrated to new lands see maintaining
their original languages and cultures as a means of reinforcing their
identity and keeping alive the links with their homeland.

Throughout the world the relationships between language, land and
identity are varied and complex, especially for indigenous
communities. For some coastal and seafaring communities the 'sense of
place' may be felt in connection with the sea as well as the land. In
Siberia the survival of languages can be linked to the continuation
of traditional practises such as herding reindeer. In Australia
dreaming stories recount the creation of the land and explain,
amongst other things, topographical features, animal behaviour and
language distribution.

In the Federal and High Courts of Australia, recent native title
claims have been won and lost based on whether or not the claimants
were able to demonstrate continuous connection with the country under
claim. Knowledge of the traditional languages is a factor in
determining the extent of that connection. For this reason the sound
documentation of languages and their successful maintenance has
become more important than ever and has a bearing on people who may
not otherwise be concerned about language loss.

The seventh international conference of the Foundation for Endangered
Languages aims to better understand the relationships between
language, the culture and identity of its speakers, and the land.
These understandings can then provide an important guide to
establishing priorities, when choosing approaches to documentation
and revitalization of endangered languages.

We are pondering many questions, among them:

*What lies behind the idea, common in indigenous communities, that a
language may have an intrinsic link with a place, or a traditional
way of life?
*Are there principles for demarcating functions of different language
varieties, such as local and national languages?
* Can languages be owned? Do small language communities have a right
to restrict access to their language, even if it is severely
threatened? Do outsiders have any right to know a small community's
*How have so many widely spoken languages lost their link with their
homeland? Are all widespread languages (national, imperial,
commercial) cut off from their roots?
*How can we learn from speakers of indigenous languages about
cultural identity, and a sense of place?
*Can knowledge of the language of your forebears link you to a place
that you have never seen?
*Is it possible to successfully document or maintain a language
without careful consideration of its cultural and environmental
*What do the speakers of endangered languages see as  most important
for the future: documentation in archives or passing on the language
to the next generation?
*Is there a conflict between documentation and archiving on the one
hand and language revitalization on the other? Who should set
priorities and how to go about it?
*What is the relation between language revitalisation and the link to
an ancestral country?

The Foundation for Endangered Languages herewith calls for papers for
its seventh conference, ÔMaintaining the Links: Language, Identity
and the Land',  to be held in Broome, Western Australia.

It is no coincidence that we chose this venue to host the conference.
Broome is a growing town in the Kimberley region in the remote north
of Western Australia. It is a colourful town with a laid-back
atmosphere. To the west the Indian Ocean and beautiful beaches and to
the east the Great Sandy Desert, it is spectacular country.

In the 1880s the Kimberley was one of the last regions of the country
to be settled by Europeans with the opening of the area to the
pastoral industry and the discovery of gold. The town of Broome began
with the establishment of the pearling industry. Aboriginal people
along with many Japanese, Malays, Filipinos, Timorese, Macassarese
and Ambonese worked in this industry which is still one of the townÕs
most important. The influence of Broome Pearling Lugger's Pidgin, now
no longer spoken, can be heard in 'Broome Talk', one of the varieties
of English spoken by many Broome locals today.

It is a region of great linguistic diversity. There are twenty-five
traditional Aboriginal languages still spoken in the Kimberley
although many have only a handful of speakers and only two are spoken
by children as their first language. As the Ôgateway to the
KimberleyÕ, Broome is also close to the Pilbara region where there
are some 20 languages still spoken.

Australia is a sad example of extreme language endangerment. Over 250
languages were once spoken, but now only ninety or so remain.
Initially death from violence and disease, then policies aimed at
cultural assimilation have diminished speech communities that had
never been large and had devastating effects on the transmission of
language from parent to child.

In the last twenty years, regional language centres have emerged as a
result of grass roots movements to reclaim and protect local
languages. They concern themselves with the production of language
materials, facilitation of language revitalisation projects,
documentation, archiving and the delivery of interpreting and
translation services.

We invite contributions not only from the fields of linguistics and
ethnography but also from any practitioners in the field, those with
experience of language and cultural maintenance.

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
FoundationÕs 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
but use of the languages of interest, for quotation or
exemplification would be appropriate.

Joseph Blythe, Broome, Western Australia
McKenna Brown, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Nicholas Ostler, FEL, Bath, England
Chris Moseley, BBC Monitoring Service, England
Mahendra Verma, University of York, England
Karen Johnson-Weiner, SUNY-Potsdam, USA
Louanna Furbee, University of Missouri, USA

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

A) Electronic submission:
Electronic submission (by 9th March 2003) should be as attachment in
Word format in email message to R. McKenna Brown at McKenna Brown
<mbrown at>.

B) Paper abstracts:
Three copies should be sent, (again, for delivery by 9th March), to:
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>. 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 9th March
* Committee's decision 13th April
* Authors submit camera-ready text 29th June
* Conference 22nd-24th September

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