Last Friday (April 22) the Rochester Institute of Technology hosted the third edition of the Symposium on American Indian Languages (SAIL). It featured an impressive concentration of talks related to language documentation and revitalization in the Americas. I presented a talk on a digital dictionary for Panará with Myriam Lapierre, Andrés Salanova, and also Perankô, a Panará informant and friend who was visiting in Ottawa for a few weeks from Brazil.
SAIL is an up-and-coming conference for people engaged in documenting and/or revitalizing indigenous languages of the Americas, both linguists and indigenous activists. When one focuses all work on sociolinguistically healthy languages in the Amazon, one forgets easily how close to vanishing many languages are, especially in North America. It’s heartbreaking to see it so close but it also puts things in perspective, as a reminder of why the efforts to keep Panará a thriving language are so important. And, as Leanne Hinton said in her plenary talk, all it takes is a closer look to realize that the struggle to keep these languages alive is full of small-scale success cases in the whole continent.
Now that SAIL is over, there are barely two weeks left in Ottawa before heading up to Brazil, with another conference followed by the beginning of this year’s fieldwork campaign.