From: Roger Blench <r.blenchodi.org.uk>
Subject: Endangered Languages: Reality and Publicity
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Do any other linguists out there sense a worrying gap between the rhetoric
concerning documentation in relation to endangered languages and the
reality? Not a week seems to go by without another meeting, conference,
resource, brochure etc. And yet out there, languages seem to be
disappearing at an alarming rate with a complete lack of basic
documentation, even where something can be achieved in a couple of days. I
have just finished six weeks in Cameroun visiting a wide variety of
language projects. A couple of apparently completely unknown languages
turned up, one of which is highly endangered. There are a few Ph.D.
projects on the grammar of minority languages, but none are targeting the
most severely threatened speech forms. Nigeria is even worse, with
virtually nothing going on in relation to the large number of highly
endangered languages. It would be a pity if the only legacy of many
languages was a series of glossy PR brochures.
Two strategies suggest themselves, an audit of endangered language
programmes so see if a) they are really focused on endangered languages b)
whether they are cost-effective, or are merely another source of finance
for beleaguered universities. Has anyone tried this and would it be of value?
Discipline of Linguistics
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