The Voice KA LEO
Noelle Fujii Staff Writer
February 25, 2013

About 6,000-7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, and linguists estimate that half of them will be extinct before 2100.

To keep these languages alive, the Third International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation will be held at the Hawai‘i Imin International Conference Center at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from Feb. 28 through March 3.

The theme of this conference is “Sharing Worlds of Knowledge” to highlight the fact that language encodes knowledge in the sciences, arts and humanities. This conference will feature more than 400 international guests including researchers, community members and language activists. There will also be approximately 200 paper and poster presentations.

“Language is an essential part to who you are as a student,” said education Ph.D. student L.J. Rayphand. “It is your identity, and your ability to converse in your native language does not only give you a sense of belonging, but it also gave you a sense of power and access, especially when conducting research for your own people and community.”

Rayphand is from Chuuk, a federated state of Micronesia, and will be presenting at the conference on using digital storytelling to document and share the history and culture of Chuuk.

FOLLOWING HAWAI‘I

The biennial conference has always taken place at UH Mānoa. According to linguistics associate professor Andrea Berez, Hawai‘i is seen as a model for language revitalization.

“The revitalization of Hawaiian is a real inspiration for other communities whose languages are endangered, and many of the tools and practices used in strengthening the Hawaiian language can serve as models for other language communities that want to strengthen their languages,” said Victoria Anderson, linguistics associate professor.

Every two weeks, an endangered language ceases to be spoken. According to a press release, each language death results in the loss of a culture’s history, knowledge and identity.

“Being in the Pacific, where there are so many languages being spoken, it’s really important to be aware of language endangerment, documentation and revitalization,” Berez said.

The conference will feature talks about Hawaiian Sign Language, which is found across the island chain. Hawaiian will also be one of more than 100 languages that will be discussed.
Five staff members from UH will be giving presentations. The last two and a half hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday will feature workshops taught by staff from UH.

The conference also features two inclusive talks – one by Dr. Nicholas Evans from the Australian National University and one by Kalepa Baybayan from the Pacific Voyaging Society.

There will be a Pre-Conference talk on Feb. 27 starting at 12:30 p.m. Linda Barwick, an associate professor in the School of Letters, Art and Media at the University of Sydney, will look at genres of song that have emerged in Australia and elsewhere in the last century with attention to multi-layered language used in songs.

David M. Mark, a professor of geography at the University at Buffalo, will be speaking at the Post-Conference talk on March 4 at 12:30 p.m. He will focus on ethnographic case studies he conducted on the Yindjibarndi people of northwestern Australia and the Navajo people of the American Southwest. These events are open to the public and are made possible by the late Dr. Dai Ho Chun through his estate gift.

A field study to Hilo will follow the conference on March 4-5. This trip is put on by UH Hilo’s School of Hawaiian Language. Those who participate will visit immersion schools and Hawaiian language courses at the university.


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