“The Linguists” and Dr. K. David Harrison at Loudoun Campus

The Loudoun Campus will host, “Talk of the Town: A Film Screening of ‘The Linguists’ and Keynote Speaker Dr. K. David Harrison.” The Linguists is an Emmy-nominated documentary produced in 2008 by Ironbound Films.

Event details
Monday, April 14th, 2014.   7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Loudoun Campus, Northern Virginia Community College (1000 Harry Flood Byrd Hwy, Sterling, VA 20164)
Waddell Theatre

This event is free and open to the public (more details here). There will be a question and answer session, book signing, and an Honors Program potluck to follow on the third floor in the LR lobby.

Screened at the Sundance Film Festival, “The Linguists” is a fascinating and compelling look at language extinction and documentation. It follows two linguists, Greg Anderson of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, and Dr. K David Harrison of Swarthmore College as they travel from the Andes Mountains in South America to villages in Siberia, and from English-Hindi boarding schools in Orissa, India, to an American Indian reservation in Arizona.

The film addresses such issues as the spread of major global languages and how they contribute to language extinction, political and social reasons that some languages have been repressed, and reasons that language revitalization and language documentation are important.

In addition to being an anthropologist, Harrison is a National Geographic Fellow and a co-director of the Society’s Enduring Voices Project which documents endangered languages and cultures around the world. He has done extensive fieldwork with indigenous communities from Siberia and Mongolia to Peru, Colombia, India, Nepal and Australia. His work has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, USA Today and Science and on “The Colbert Report”. He received his doctorate from Yale University and is currently an associate professor at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia.

ImageAnthony Degio (left) listens to playback of a Koro language story, with K. David Harrison, Takpa Yame and Greg Anderson. Photo by Jeremy Fahringer

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!

“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.


From Nepal, with Love

The poem below, composed in Nepalese and translated into English by Nepalese writer Aditya Pokharel, was written shortly after a screening of “The Linguists” at Kathmandu University in January 2012, hosted by Dr. K. David Harrison. The event was also followed by a language preservation workshop. Aditya was struck by the loss of the world’s languages, and composed this beautiful poem about his experience.

The day I heard languages were dying,
I wondered, What else were being killed with it?
Millions of of words mutilated,
Thousands of songs unsung,
hundreds of stories untold.
I wondered,
which language,
would answer this.
How long will it take for humanity,
to be humane?
The day I heard languages were dying,
I didn’t feel so alive myself.

जुन दिन मैले सूने भाषाहरू मरिरहेका छन्
मैले सोचेँ, भाषासँगै अरू के-के मारिइरहेका होलान्।
क्षतविछ्त् पारिएका लाखौँ शब्दहरू
नगाइएका हजारौँ गीतहरू
नभनिएका सयौँ कथाहरू।
अनि सोचेँ,
कुन भाषाले यो प्रश्नको उतर देला:
मानवतालाई मानविय हुन अझू कति लाग्ला?
जुन दिन मैले सुने भाषाहरू मरिरहेका छन्,
त्यो दिन मैले आफै पनि त्यति जिउँदो महशूश गरिन।

Live-blog from Fieldwork in Kalmykia!


“Cultural revival in Europe’s only Buddhist region” by K. David Harrison is available online through the Nat Geo Explorers Journal.

“During the past week the Enduring Voices team visited the Republic of Kalmykia, an obscure corner in European Russia, on the Caspian Sea.

The Kalmyk people are of Mongol origin, having migrated to Europe from Mongolia at the turn of the 17th century. They experienced genocide and deportation in the 1940s under Stalin, and have struggled to keep their culture alive…” To read more, click here.


38 hours left!

Dear Living Tongues supporters,

Hello, this is David Harrison reminding you that we are currently raising funds to support language revitalization projects around the world.

Your gift will allow Living Tongues to support language warriors in Chile, Papua New Guinea, India, and Peru, with technology and training they need.

There are 38 hours left days left on our fundraising campaign
for Language Technology Kits on Indiegogo.

To those who have already contributed, I want to extend a sincere thank you for your help in safeguarding cultural and linguistic diversity.

Please consider making a gift today.

Thank you!
K. David Harrison

ps: Stay tuned for upcoming news about our upcoming fieldwork to Siberia, events at the United Nations and other new projects!

Mark Franco on language revitalization among the Winnimem Wintu

Today we bring you the message of Mark Franco, language activist from the Winnimem Wintu Nation of northern California. He tells his story about how receiving equipment, training and support from the Living Tongues Institute has helped him create new, vital educational materials in his language.

UPDATE! Campaign for Language Technology Kits

Our Indiegogo campaign was featured on Rising Voices as well as Polyglossic.

Join our Facebook event page to receive more updates about our campaign.

19 days left! we can do it! Our sincere thanks to our supporters who have contributed to the cause through our Indiegogo page.

As we count down to the last day of our campaign, we will be posting messages about language activism, bringing you inspirational stories of people using technology to document and revitalize their languages. Thank you all for following our campaign for language technology kits.

Indiegogo Campaign: Language Technology Kits!

We just launched a new campaign for 8 Language Technology Kits on Indiegogo.
During our fieldwork around the world, we have made some of the first digital recordings of dozens of endangered languages, and we want to empower communities to do their own long-term documentation.

We have met many dedicated language activists who would really benefit from having access to computers and recording equipment so they can continue documenting their vanishing languages. We are raising funds for the equipment and training necessary for them to produce new media in their languages. This will help conserve and revitalize their languages, and also give them a presence online.

Our goal is to raise $24 000 for 8 kits over the next 72 days.

We encourage you to donate to this cause. Please help us spread the word on your social networks!

Talking Dictionaries – Hot News in the Press!

K. David Harrison’s presentation at the AAAS last Friday in Vancouver publicly unveiled our 8 talking dictionaries projects. We have received a lot of amazing press coverage over the last few days! And more to come this week. Here are some useful links for you:

Here are some of the recent international articles where the Talking Dictionaries, the Enduring Voices Project and the Living Tongues Institute are mentioned.

And more articles and related links are listed on our Living Tongues Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading!

Talking Dictionaries Image