SIL International Home

SIL International Media Release

Payap University and SIL mark 20 years at opening of Linguistics Institute building

(March 2009) Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and SIL are celebrating the opening of a new building to house their Linguistics Institute. This event marks the 20th anniversary of partnership between Payap University and SIL.

Invited Speakers

Payap University—a private liberal arts institution—and SIL combined efforts on the project to completely renovate and expand the old alumni building, which is located on the banks of the Mae Khao River. Two other SIL partner organizations provided approximately US $230,000 for renovation costs.

Payap University and SIL share a two-pronged vision of working together with ethnic communities. On the one hand, they aim to research and preserve ethnic languages and cultures. On the other, they aim to serve communities that desire to participate in language development programs. In 1988, Payap University and SIL agreed to establish both an academic Department of Linguistics and a practical training center for local communities.

The Linguistics Institute–Practical workshop training

The new Linguistics Institute building will enable Payap and SIL to provide even more ethnic groups with practical workshops in literacy, story writing, ethnomusicology and translation. Since 1991, over 250 participants from 32 ethnic groups have attended training workshops to learn various skills and produce materials in their mother tongues.

The Linguistic Institute is composed of four units:

  • The Training Unit (formerly Applied Linguistics Training Program–ALTP) promotes language development through hosting workshops to equip representatives of language groups interested in doing literacy and translation in their own languages.
  • The Computing Unit provides font and software solutions for ethnic languages.
  • The Research Unit assists international scholars to plan and implement linguistic research projects that result in publication.
  • The Survey Unit supports detailed fieldwork and analysis to provide data crucial for planning language development projects.

The Department of Linguistics

In 1988, Payap University and SIL agreed to establish the Department of Linguistics. Since then, 51 students from 15 countries have completed an MA in Linguistics at Payap. Many of these students are minority language speakers, and are now using their knowledge to help their own language communities. Besides teaching, all linguistics professors must do field research. They have written more than 60 research reports for Payap. Both professors and advanced students present their research at international conferences.

When the department first opened in 1989, courses were based largely on models from the United States or from SIL training centers in the USA, UK, Germany, and Australia. As the department matured, and as teaching faculty expanded their own research, courses were adjusted so they better meet the challenges that students will face in their future work.

The Royal Thai Government recognized Payap’s achievements in 1984 when it became the first fully accredited private university in Thailand. Since then the University has continued to thrive, expanding facilities to accommodate a steadily growing student body. The University invests in faculty development through its support of postgraduate education in various countries. It has added a wide range of international programs to attract students from across Southeast Asia and other areas of the world.

Related links of interest