International Conference on Endangered Languages in Europe

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS) invites scholars working on endangered languages in Europe and on Language Documentation to attend the International Conference on Endangered Languages in Europe. The conference will be held on October 17-18th, 2013 at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (CIDLeS), Minde, Portugal.

The conference aims to:

  • Provide an interdisciplinary forum in which scholars from Language Documentation, Language Technology and others working on European endangered languages can exchange ideas and techniques on language documentation, archiving, and revitalisation;
  • Include further discussion and research into linguistic diversity in Europe;
  • Reflect on language policy issues.

The second day of the Conference will have two special panels: one focusing on the endangered languages in the Iberian Peninsula and a round table, dedicated to the theme “new speakers of minority/endangered languages”.

The Conference will include a socio-cultural program related to the theme “Endangered Languages in Europe” with the aim of promoting intercultural exchange and reinforcing the relationship between linguists and language communities. On 19 October 2013 there will be a “Language Fair”, in which members of endangered language communities in Europe will present their languages and cultures through book displays, and cultural events (music, theatre, movies, exhibitions, etc.). On the evenings of 18 and 19 October there will be an Endangered Languages Music Festival.

Plenary speakers

  • Ulrike Mosel (University of Kiel)
  • Mandana Seyfeddinipur (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)
  • Sebastian Drude (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen)
  • Fernando Ramallo (University of Vigo)

Scientific committee

  • Annette Endruschat (University of Regensburg)
  • Michael Cysouw (University of Marburg)
  • Frank Seifart (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig)
  • Wolfgang Schulze (University of Munich)
  • Xosé Afonso Pérez Álvarez (University of Lisbon)
  • Lachlan Mackenzie  (ILTEC, Lisbon)
  • Johannes Helmbrecht (University of Regensburg)
  • Peter-Arnold Mumm (University of Munich)
  • Nikolaus Himmelmann (University of Cologne)
  • Geoffrey Haig (University of Bamberg)

Organizing committee

  • Vera Ferreira
  • Peter Bouda
  • Francisco Vicente
  • Rita Pedro
  • António Lopes
  • Ingrid Scholz
  • Paulo Vicente

For more information please contact ele2013@cidles.eu and visit the following websites:

www.cidles.eu/events/conference-ele-2013

www.cidles.eu/events/conference-ele-2013/language-fair

Interview: Speaking Welsh, Living in Brussels

Stefanie Poulton moved to Brussels from North Wales in 2009. Today she works in British Council Brussels as PA to Regional Director EU. She shares her views about multilingualism and having become “Welsh Stef” in Brussels for our blog. Interview with Canan Marasligil.

 

Are you originally from Wales?
I was born in Chester, England and have two English Parents; my Mother is from Sheffield and my Father from Manchester. They moved to Wales the day before I was born…

The actual day before you were born?
Yes!

Are they still in Wales?
Yes, they’re still living there today.

Did you learn Welsh at school?
I attended the local primary school where we were taught Welsh from very early on. During my secondary education the Welsh Assembly Government amended the curriculum, making Welsh a compulsory subject to be sat at GCSE level, when prior to this pupils had the option to discontinue it as a subject if desired at 14. I therefore studied it until I was 16.

Did you like studying Welsh?
At the time it wasn’t something I had wanted to necessarily study, as I felt learning another, more widely spoken language such as French or Spanish would be more beneficial. In hindsight, having grown up in Wales I now recognise the importance of language learning in relation to the shaping of identity and culture and although my Welsh is pretty basic and something which I am unlikely to use again, I think learning it and growing up in Wales has impacted on me in more ways than I thought; Now in Brussels I am referred to as ‘Welsh Stef’ – something I don’t necessarily consider myself to be!

How did learning Welsh affect who your cultural identity?
While I was growing up, learning Welsh always felt a bit alien to me.  I knew that because I lived in Wales, in school we were expected to learn it.  However with it being a language you would rarely hear being spoken and not coming from a Welsh background and mixing with friends who were in a similar position to me, it often led to some confusion and perhaps some resentment to it.  The year I was choosing my options for my GCSE’s is when the Welsh Assembly Government made learning Welsh compulsory across the curriculum until the age of 16.  I don’t think this contributed to myself having any feelings of being Welsh, but perhaps the opposite!  I suppose it began to change when I left Wales for University and then moving to Belgium. As soon as you mention where you come from people are very interested in whether you can speak Welsh or not, it is usually one of the first questions! And then I feel quite proud to answer that I learnt it at school and am able to explain a bit about the language, its uses in Wales – how and where it is spoken and its history and origin, which people do seem interested in, given its reputation of a ‘dying’ language.

What place does Welsh have in your personal and professional lives today? Today, apart from the name I have inherited, Welsh plays little part in personal and professional life.  Most of my friends, even if they were from Welsh speaking families have left Wales and when I return it is to visit my Parents.  I have definitely noticed an increase in the about of Welsh visible when I go back, on sign posts, in shops and on literature in my Parents house which get’s posted through the door and do feel proud that I can understand it where as perhaps the previous generation to me would not!

Do you think Welsh helps you learning other languages or opening up to other languages?
I’m not sure if learning Welsh made me want to learn other languages.  I think at the time because it felt forced upon me and because I struggled to contextualise it, it made language learning feel like a chore and therefore I didn’t appreciate its importance.  However today, this has of course changed and living in Brussels where there are so many languages and dialects being spoken around you, I feel pleased to have studied one other than my mother tongue, even if it can’t be used!

 

BIO
Stefanie Poulton works in the Brussels office as PA to Regional Director EU; Rosemary Hilhorst OBE. Stefanie moved to Brussels in 2009 from North Wales to work at the European Parliament as Parliamentary Assistant to a British MEP. Although a varied role, Stefanie particularly enjoyed the PA element to the position and was keen to further her career working in an international environment in this area. Having gained a Master’s Degree in Creative and Cultural Management from the University of Chester before moving to Belgium, the work of the British Council complements her personal interest in intercultural dialogue and cultural management.

 

Reindeer racing in Sápmi

I’ve just been reading about the upcoming Sami Easterfestival in Kautokeino / Guovdageaidnu (Norway) where there will be ice fishing competitions, snowmobile racing and the world lasso throwing and reindeer racing championships. It sounds wonderful, like that song by The Beatles about Mr. Kite’s circus where he promises to  trampoline “over men and horses, hoops and garters, lastly through a hogshead of real fire!” It also sounds like there’s a distinct possibility that it could degenerate into absolute chaos if, for example, the snowmobiles try to race the reindeers, or the lassoers take on the ice-fishers (after all, it doesn’t say what the championship lassoers are meant to lasso). If you’re thinking of heading along, please note that: ‘it’s not allowed to bring […] knifes or any other form of weapon to the festival concerts. If you bring any of this items they will be confiscated’. Which reminds me of this recent exhibition (in French).

Photo of the Sami rap group Duolva Duottar

Sami rap group Duolva Duottar

I realised, while browsing the festival website, that I really don’t know anything about the Sami/Sámi/Saami people. However, I work with two Finns (one of whom will be posting a related article soon), and having heard these people mentioned on more than one occasion I decided to do some research.

The Sami are the arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, a geographical area which, according to Wikipedia, covers parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, but also the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. It’s really quite a large area (see map). They are the Nordic countries’ only officially indigenous people and their traditional languages are the Sami languages – apparently there is not one Sami language, but, depending where you look, nine or ten, all of which are endangered. They are classified as part of the Finno-Lappic group of the Uralic language family (you can see the Uralic language family tree illustrated – along with many others – on this nice site: Ethnologue).

Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite - the poster that inspired the song

Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite - the poster that inspired the song

The languages use agglutination extensively — that system of combining affixes to the root of a word which allows words like the Finnish epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän to exist (which to you and me means: “I wonder if — even with his/her quality of not having been made unsystematized”). Also, they have an average of 13-14 cases and use an extended (very extended) Latin alphabet. So, for an English speaker, rather complex.

My ‘research’, i.e. poking around the web and bugging my Finnish colleagues, brings me back to that same old question, that is to say, should we allow and accept that languages die off through a process of natural/artificial selection? Or is it the case that they are so inextricably linked with notions like identity and culture that to lose a language is to lose so much more? Or is there a middle ground where accept that not all languages can last for ever, but pledge to do more to see that they are recorded for posterity? I’d welcome your thoughts.

Thanks to Katri Mäenpää and Kirsi Suutarinen for their advice.