Language Ownership Rights

As reported in the Green Book1, the Cochiti people do not feel their language should be written down. Stories and songs can be cultural property owned so that only the proper owner may tell or sing them as in the Pacific Northwest. Related to this is the question of whether non-native speakers should produce written materials of an endangered language and more generally, who is it that should be producing them as it is the person producing that will have control over the content rather than the collective culture.

This question is introduced, though not explored, in a recent New York Times article by Noam Cohen titled “Building Wikipedia in African languages”, available at the Interntional Herald Tribune.

My thanks to 용빈 말리 for the tip.

1 “Introduction to the Pueblo Languages” by Leanne Hinton, p. 62, in The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice, 2001, Academic Press. ed. Leanne Hinton and Ken Hale.

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