SIL International Media Release

Language Documentation and Conservation Conference

(March 2009) The First International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation was held
12–14 March at the University of Hawai'i (UH). The conference, with more than 150 presentations, focused on the theme of collaboration in language documentation and revitalization, and included sessions on interdisciplinary topics.

The loss of many of the world's languages is prompting scholars and speakers to work to record, support and relearn languages with relatively few speakers. Sharing ideas on how to support these languages was a major focus of the conference, according to organizer Dr. Nick Thieberger of the Department of Linguistics at UH. "Speakers of these languages are looking to academia for help, and this is a great opportunity for universities to be engaged with community programs," he said.

"Though language change is inevitable, the rate of change in Pollapese has increased because of out-migration, as seen in vacant homes and near[ly] abandoned classrooms on Pollap," said Paulina Yourupi, a speaker of the Micronesian language from Chuuk. "The lack of documentation of the language makes it difficult to quantify language change, but it is observable by speakers. Something needs to be done immediately to avert a disaster befalling this language."

It has been a decade since Professor Nikolaus Himmelmann (University of Münster, Germany) encouraged linguists to create a lasting record of languages that could be used by speakers as well as by academics. International experts at the conference aimed to assess what has been achieved in the past decade, and what the practice of language documentation has been and can be.

Papers by SIL scholars

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