Day 1: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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Photo by @TheNationalMall

Today, the National Mall in Washington D.C. went from open field to bustling international village as the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival opened to the public.

One of the three major themes this year is “One World, Many Voices,” put on in partnership with the Enduring Voices Project, our collaborative project with National Geographic. Representatives of some of the world’s most endangered languages are gathering in the U.S. capitol for ten days of cultural celebration and dialogue.

K. David Harrison, our Director of Research and one of the curators of the festival, just did a great interview with Nat Geo NewsWatch about the festival! Check it out right here.

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Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

One World, Many Voices

Of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world today—many of them unrecorded—up to half may disappear in this century. As languages vanish, communities lose a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human mind.

 

The One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will highlight language diversity as a vital part of our human heritage. Cultural experts from communities around the world will demonstrate how their ancestral tongues embody cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies, and arts.

Through performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations, and hands-on educational activities, highly skilled musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, craftspeople, language educators, and other cultural practitioners will come together on the National Mall to share their artistry, knowledge, and traditions; to discuss the meaning and value of their languages to their cultural heritage and ways of life; and to address the challenges they face in maintaining the vitality of their languages in today’s world.

ImageFestival visitors will be able to talk with Kalmyk epic singers and Tuvan stone carvers from Russia, Koro rice farmers from India, Passamaquoddy basketmakers from Maine, Kallawaya medicinal healers and textile artists from Bolivia, Garifuna drummers and dancers from Los Angeles and New York, and many others.

When a language disappears, unique ways of knowing, understanding, and experiencing the world are lost forever. The expert culture bearers participating in the One World, Many Voices program will richly illustrate these different ways of knowing and show how cultural and language diversity enrich the world.

The One World, Many Voices program is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with UNESCO, the National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project, and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Initiative.

2013 Festival Schedule

47th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall,

Washington D.C., USA.

June 26-June 30 and July 3-July 7, 2013

Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Evening events 5:30 p.m.

A full schedule will be available in June 2013.

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K. David Harrison at the University of Montana

On Wednesday, 17 April, Mizuki Miyashita of the UM Linguistics Program hosted a series of events with Dr. K. David Harrison, an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic fellow. Two days before Dr. Harrison’s visit, there was a viewing of the documentary “The Linguists” (in which Dr. Harrison is featured). At Q&A event following the film, Dr. Harrison updated his audience on his most recent projects: Enduring Voices, jointly ventured at National Geographic, and Talking Dictionaries at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Dr. Harrison’s public lecture, “Endangered Languages: Local and Global Perspectives,” was very well-attended, and every copy of his book “When Languages Die” was purchased at the book-signing. Dr. Harrison explains that out of approximately 7,000 world languages, 83 are spoken by 80% of the world’s population, and the rest by indigenous or small language communities around the globe in regions which he calls “Language Hotspots.” For example, the Ös language (also known as Chulym) of the remotest regions of Siberia is currently spoken by only 7 people. Dr. Harrison has made the very first recordings of some of these languages. In some cases, these recordings are of the last speaker’s speech. For instance, one of his Talking Dictionaries is of the Siletz Dee-Ni language in Oregon, currently spoken by only one person. Harrison describes how language death eventually leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. These endangered languages contain “traditional knowledge” of plants, animal species, ecosystems and medicinal remedies. Sometimes language loss translates to the loss of worldviews.

At his talk, he also discussed efforts to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity worldwide and showed the audience original field materials and recordings of “language warriors” to illustrate local perspectives on language endangerment and extinction. As Dr. Harrison stated, “speakers generally love their languages, and want to keep them.” One of the video clips Harrison shared was of a young man singing a hip hop song in Aka (spoken in Northeastern India). Some Aka elders disapprove of the language being used in this way, but according to Harrison these young speakers are a “key to keeping the language.”

About half of world’s languages are predicted to become extinct in this century, including Native American languages of Montana. This event also raised an awareness of endangered indigenous knowledge encoded in languages of Montana, and brought together a diverse group of people: faculty and students of Linguistics, Anthropology, Native American Studies, Communication Studies, Environmental Studies and Music, as well as members of local Indigenous communities including Salish, Kootenai and Blackfeet.

The event was supported by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Department of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Studies, Department of Communication Studies, and Department of Native American Studies, Department of Society and Conservation in the College of Forestry and Conservation, Green Thread, the UM Linguistics Club, and the Linguistics Program.

Here are some photos from K. David Harrison’s trip:

ImageDr. Harrison at the University of Montana.

ImageK. David Harrison with Salish tribal linguists Germaine White and Tom Smith.

For more details about his lecture at the University of Montana, check out this article published in the Missoulian. Thanks for reading!

Talking Dictionaries of Latin America

We are pleased to announce that 14 new Talking Dictionaries for Latin America are now under development and are available for online viewing and listening. The new dictionaries were created in collaboration with indigenous speakers, linguists and technical specialists at two recent digital skills workshops in South America.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.50.50 PMThe Mam, Mapudungun, Mazahua, Miahuatec Zapotec, Monkox Besiro, Pipil (Nahuat), Quechua Chanka, Tsesungun and Yanesha were produced in Chile at our digital skills workshop called “Voces Duraderas” that we held at the Biblioteca de Santiago in Chile. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson and Anna Luisa Daigneault traveled to Chile to teach the workshop in January 2013. We would like to acknowledge the great work of the following indigenous speakers who attended the event and learned the digital skills necessary to build these new dictionaries:

– Andres Ozuna Ortiz (Yshyr-chamacoco, Paraguay)
– Anselmo Nuyado Ancapichun and Jonattan Laoiza Ancapichun (Tsesungun, Chile)
– Espíritu Bautista and Elmo Bautista (Yanesha / Amuesha, Peru)
– Judith Condori Gavilán (Quechua Chanka, Peru)
– María Inés Huenuñir Antihuala (Mapudungun, Chile)
– Emiliano Cruz Santiago (Miahuatec Zapotec San Bartolomé Loxicha, México)
– Verónica Fidencio Núñez (Mazahua, México)
– Carlos Enrique Cortez (Pipil / Nahuat, El Salvador)
– José Reginaldo Pérez Vail (Mam, Guatemala)
– Ignacio Tomicha Chuve (Monkox Besiro, Bolivia)

Many thanks to Eddie Avila from Rising Voices who helped us facilitate the workshop, and to Cristian Maturana and the rest of the staff at Biblioteca de Santiago who helped us make the “Voces Duraderas” workshop a success for all who took part.

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Talking Dictionaries of Colombia

The Talking Dictionaries for Nasa Yuwe, Sáliba, Embera, Uitoto and Wayuunaiki were produced by a team of linguists, indigenous specialists and language activists at a workshop at the Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Colombia. Dr. K. David Harrison traveled there in October 2012 to help facilitate the workshop and produce these dictionaries, which are still under construction. Check out our blog posting about his trip.

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These online dictionaries are a powerful educational tools for communities that are trying to revitalize their endangered languages. Each site is programmed to be bilingual so that speakers of the local dominant language can easily use it. It serves as a resource to help fluent speakers teach their native language to a new generation of speakers.

These Talking Dictionaries were created by the Enduring Voices Project funded by the National Geographic Society and Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. Additional support and hosting by Swarthmore College. Interface and database design under the direction of Jeremy Fahringer.

If you love Talking Dictionaries as much as we do, please consider donating to our fundraising campaign to build 12 new Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Thanks for reading!

Enduring Voices Media Skills Workshop in Chile, Jan 7-11, 2013

We are pleased to announce we are teaming up with National Geographic to produce a digital media skills workshop for speakers of Latin American endangered languages.

The event is called “Voces Duraderas” (part of our “Enduring Voices Project“) and it will take place from January 7th to 11th, in Santiago, Chile. Twelve indigenous participants from seven different countries will be taking part in the workshop. We are really looking forward to this! The program (in Spanish) is available here.

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And, we are happy that our upcoming Latin American workshop has already received some great press coverage! Read about it in TIME Magazine’s Newsfeed, This is Chile (Chile’s official website), and on the Rising Voices blog.

ImagePhoto caption from “This is Chile” article about the workshop.

Thanks for reading and supporting endangered language documentation!

If you are in Santiago, feel free to join us for the closing day of the workshop:

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“Vanishing Voices” in National Geographic Magazine, July 2012

Great news! An in-depth article about endangered languages is in this month’s issue of National Geographic Magazine. Written by journalist Russ Rymer, with amazing images by photographer Lynn Johnson, the article explores global language loss, with profiles on language revitalization efforts among speakers of languages such as Tuvan, Aka, Chemehuevi, Wintu, Euchee and Seri.

Living Tongues Director Dr. Gregory D.S. Anderson and Director of Research Dr. K. David Harrison were interviewed for the piece, and their documentation work in Arunachal Pradesh (India), among Aka speakers, is discussed. Pick up a copy in news stands before the end of the month! Here is the cover, which features coverage on Easter Island, and in the top left-hand area, you can see that “Saving Lost Languages” is one of the featured topics of the issue.

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Dr. Gregory Anderson helps record the Xyzyl Language in Siberia

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Dr. Anderson is currently doing fieldwork in Siberia and recently published an article about his work:

“The 2012 Enduring Voices expedition to the Siberia Language Hotspot has allowed us to explore the current state of the Xyzyl (pronounced hizzle) language from the Republic of Xakasia (pronounced ha-KAH-see-ya, also spelled “Khakasiya”).

We traveled across the birch-covered hills of southern Siberia and into the wind-swept steppe dotted with ancient burial mounds until we reached the Xyzyl territory northwest of Mongolia. We visited five villages and identified fifty to sixty total speakers and semi-speakers.

Xyzyl is an unrecognized “hidden” language officially considered a dialect of the Xakas language. Xyzyl people we interviewed insist theirs is a separate language and our linguistic analysis supports this…”

For the rest of Dr. Anderson’s article, please check out right here on Nat Geo NewsWatch.

Thanks for reading!