Do languages really die or how are they said to be endangered? When are languages threatened with extinction? How do people—the speakers of language, language institutions and policy-makers, and scientists of language—face the threats or address the many factors causing the gradual loss of humanity’s rich linguistic heritage?
That there is such a loss is a reality facing many cultures and languages in the world today. As late as six years ago the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has reported that 43% of the world’s 6,000 languages were at the risk of extinction.
“The threat can come in many forms, from contact with other languages to language shift to dwindling speaker populations,” Dr. Purificacion Delima, a commissioner and linguist with the KomisyonsaWikang Filipino (KWF), said as she announced that KWF is organizing an international conference on language endangerment to be held in Manila in October this year.
The three-day Conference on Language Endangerment, under the theme“Sustaining Languages, Sustaining the World,” will be held from 10-12 October 2018 at the National Museum of the Philippines.
“In a rare feat,” Delima said, “the Philippines, through the KWF, is taking the lead for the first time in the region to gather language scholars and experts in other disciplines to foreground the frail ecolinguistic diversity of the world today.”
The Conference will bring together prominent international language scholars who will deliver important papers and share their studies and findings, and experiences and best practices on language endangerment, documentation, and revitalization.
Keynoting the Conference is Dr. Michael Walsh of the Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney, while other experts include Gregory D.S. Anderson of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages; Larry Kimura, University of Hawaii-Halo; Salem Mezhoud, ALC, School of Global Affairs; Peter Austin, University of London; Dr. Marleen Haboud, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Ecuador; Ganesha Devi, People’s Lingusitic Survey of India, Brendan Fairbanks, University of Minnesota; Patrick Heinrich, Asian and North African Studies; and SuwilaiPremsirat, Mahidol University.
“A rational policy for documentation and revitalization of endangered languages in the Philippines will be one of primary objectives of the conference,” Virgilio S. Almario, KWF chairman and National Artist for Literature, said.
“Itwill become the preliminary step in the formulation of policies and agendasin addressing the threats of language extinction,” Almario added, which he explained would need the effective contextualization of fieldwork practices, use of communications media and technologies, applied ethics, and other activities important to language documentation and revitalization.