26/10/22 - 16/11/22
14:00 - 15:30

Endangered Tribal Languages in India

The LSRI, in partnership with North Eastern Institute of Language and Culture (NEILAC), Guwahati, is hosting a four-part seminar series on the issue of endangered languages. It will bring together academics from the University of Oxford and from NEILAC, as well as other partners.


The endangerment of tribal languages is a salient issue, with some linguists estimating that between 50% and 90% of current spoken language systems will be severely endangered or dead by the year 2100. But as well as intrinsic loss, endangered languages often provide an index for wider issues of cultural, political and economic marginalization of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. A transdisciplinary approach, inspired by principles of integral ecology, can contribute to deeper analysis of this important contemporary frontier issue.


26 October: Exploring ethical frameworks for valuing endangered languages

To what degree can we say that endangered languages have intrinsic value in today’s global economy? What is the purpose of preserving and curating them? How might we determine the value of languages spoken by fewer than 10,000 people in the world? This seminar will address these questions by means of comparison with the ethics of animal conservation and the conservation of “charismatic” species such as polar bears and orangutans.

Speakers: Dr Vijay D’Souza (NEILAC), Ambika Aiyadurai (Indian Institute of Technology, Ahmedabad), Dr Sarah Ogilvie (University of Oxford)

2 November: Multidimensional poverty and endangered languages and cultures

UN SDG 1 aims to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”. To what degree does the disappearance of minority spoken languages provide an index for material poverty and related factors? And to what degree might the conservation and flourishing of endangered languages contribute to the broader task of ending poverty and material exclusion around the world?

Speakers: Dr Vijay D'Souza (NEILAC), Fanni Kovesdi (OPHI, University of Oxford)

9 November: Endangered languages, governance and policy issues

Endangered languages have become an issue of political contestation in many countries in South-East Asia. As they work to promote a single national culture, states often seek to limit the opportunities for using minority languages in the public sphere, schools, the media, and elsewhere, sometimes even prohibiting them altogether. Sometimes ethnic groups are forcibly resettled, or children may be removed to be schooled away from home, or otherwise have their chances of cultural and linguistic continuity disrupted. This seminar will address issues of governance and policy in relation to endangered languages.

Speakers: Binay Pattanayak (education specialist based in Jharkand), Richard Toppo (Institute for Social Studies, The Hague)

16 November: Before languages are endangered: Community, connection, and sacred identities

As communities lose their native language they often also lose cultural traditions that are tied to that language, such as songs, myths, poetry, remedies, and particular ecological and geological knowledge. Furthermore, the social structure of one’s community is often reflected through speech and language behaviour. This seminar will address the correlation between minority languages and dialects, and the deep structure of human identity and community cohesion.

Speakers: Dr Dolly Kikon (University of Melbourne), Iliyana Angelova (University of Bremen)

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