The Weber State University linguistics department will host a lecture series focused on identifying, revitalizing and documenting languages at risk of extinction.
The general series, called Language Matters, is funded by the Hemingway Collaborative Award, earned by the linguistics minor in the spring of 2015. These funds are being used to bring speakers and academics from linguistic disciplines to students on the Weber State campus.
Dr. Mark LeTourneau, Professor of English and Director of Linguistics at Weber State University, said the need for documenting and preserving these threatened languages is enormous.
“The time we have left before some of these languages are gone is shorter than we think”, said LeTourneau. At the rate they are dying, “it may be possible to save only a portion of them. Once they are gone, we can’t get them back”.
The series will focus on not only the social implications of losing languages but the scientific implications as well.
“The flora and fauna used by these cultures for medicines may be lost to us,” LeTourneau said. “They could be of great importance to us. The concern is that we don’t just lose the language. We lose culture, medicines, religion, zoology, literature, history…every field of study has a stake in this. We are in danger of losing knowledge encoded in these languages.”
The Language Matters series will feature three speakers with diverse backgrounds in the field of Linguistics.
The first lecture will be given by Dr. Lyle Campbell of the University of Hawaii-Manoa on September 26, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in Elizabeth Hall, room 229.
His lecture titled “Endangered Languages: Why This Matters to You” will focus on introducing the general problem of languages becoming obsolete.
Subsequent lectures will feature Dr. Marianna di Paolo of the University of Utah, who will discuss “Language Revitalization: Rebuilding the Shoshone Speech Community” on October 3, at 7:00 p.m.
On October 10, Dr. Felice Coles of the University will wrap up the series with her lecture, “Put it in Stone if You Have to: Preserving Endangered Languages through Documentation.”
Instructors are hopeful students will find interest in investing in the linguistics minor and even pursuing a career in linguistics.