Pali in opera

19 May 2013

Siddhārtha Gautama, the most well known buddha, lived around the fifth century BCE. It is believed that he spoke an Indo-Aryan dialect, such as Pali (pli). Pali is also the language of many early Buddhist scriptures and the Ethnologue says there are nine second-language speakers of Pali.

In the mid-nineteenth century, opera great Richard Wagner discovered Buddhism and began work on “Die Sieger,” which incorporated Buddhist legends.

Next month, an opera titled “Wagner Dream,” an opera by Jonathan Harvey about the last day in the life of Wagner and “Die Sieger.”

While the character Wagner and other Europeans will perform in German, the Buddhist characters will sing in Pali, the words having been translated from English.

Read more in “Wagner opera to be revived in a dead language.”

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ᓄᖃᕆᑦ

18 May 2013

ᓄᖃᕆᑦ is “stop,” as now found on stop signs in the Canadian territory Nunavut.

This month, the Official Languages Act came into force in Nunavat. According to the text of the law:

  • “The Inuit Language, English and French are the Official Languages of Nunavut,”
  • “To the extent and in the manner provided under this Act, the Official Languages of Nunavut have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in territorial institutions,” and
  • Priority must be given to “the revitalization of Inuinnaqtun.”

Read more in “Nunavut Official Languages Act Comes into Force.”

Australian government opens applications for funding

18 May 2013

The Australian government has allocated 12 million dollars (the AUD is currently approximately equivalent to the USD) over the next four years to support indigenous languages. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups are invited to submit applications through the end of May to receive funding from this allocation.

Emma Waterman has written an article on this opportunity with an interesting take on the need for non-computer solutions. Read “Digital Not Always the Answer.”

See also the government page “New Indigenous Languages Support funding open for applications” for information on how to apply.

Less than 10 percent of Pakistani languages are healthy

18 May 2013

One of the issues discussed at the First International Kashmir Conference on Linguistics 2013 is the decline of languages in Pakistan. Themed “Endangered Languages in Asia,” the conference was held on 15-16 May.

According to the Ethnologue, 12 of the 72 Pakistani languages are in trouble or dying.

Read more in “Conference on linguists: South Asian languages fading out: experts.”

In defense of mandatory Zulu classes

18 May 2013

isiZulu, or Zulu (zul), is the most widely spoken native language in South Africa and is spoken by about half of the population.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has announced it will make Zulu classes mandatory for incoming students, a move that has drawn criticism.

As Pierre De Vos explains in “KZN University: A storm in a (Zulu) teacup,” this policy is not unconstitutional and should not be compared to linguistic policies in the era of apartheid.

High school senior revitalizing Salish

11 May 2013

Vance Home Gun, a high school senior, created an organization named “Yoyoot skwkwimlt” to promote Salish, also known as Montana Salish (fla). Read an interview with Gun in “Language Preservation Made Vance Home Gun a Champion for Change.”

Cree broadcast wins journalism award

11 May 2013

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, has dozens of locations in Canada and around the world, including CBC North, which provides TV and radio broadcasts in languages such as Chipewyan (chp), Cree (cre), Dogrib (dgr), Gwich’in (gwi), Inuktitut (ike), Inuvialuk (ikt), North Slavey (scs) and South Slavey (xsl).

This past weekend, the Canadian Association of Journalists held their annual conference, including an awards ceremony. Among the winners was the episode “Breaking the mold,” broadcast on the Cree-language Maamuitaau program.

Learn more in the article “Serving Canada’s north – excellence in 8 aboriginal languages” on the Editor’s Blog of CBC News.

Report to the Human Rights council on declining minority languages

11 May 2013

In a report by Rita Izsak to the United Nations Human Rights Council in April, she cited various historical and other factors that are causing a decline in minority languages.

International laws covering the rights to speak a minority language that she cited include:

Models she cited for standards are the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

She also noted that 19 out of approximately 20 languages spoken in Cambodia are endangered. (The Ethnologue gives 24 languages, of which 14 are endangered or dying.)

Read more on her report in “UN expert warns of decline in minority languages.”

Opposition to lottery system for kindergarten in Hawai’i

11 May 2013

As outlined in “Pūnana Leo,” the introduction of the language nest in Hawai’i, using Hawaiian as the medium of instruction, faced many legal and social hurdles. According to the ʻAha Pūnana Leo website, there are now 21 immersion schools in Hawaiʻi, educating about 2,000 students from preschool through twelfth grade.

Educating keiki, or children, in Hawaiian has become so popular that in Pāʻia, they ran out of space in the program. With space for 40 children, applications were received for 53 children. Pāʻia Elementary School decided to hold a lottery to decide which children would be admitted.

But the idea of a lottery is opposed by Nā Leo Kākoʻo O Maui, a not-for-profit organization that supports Hawaiian language immersion. According to Kaheleonolani Dukelow, an organizer for a demonstration against the lottery, a lottery would never be held to determine which children are given an English education, and so it isn’t right to hold a lottery for Hawaiian education.

Read more in “Hawaiian Immersion Lottery at Pāʻia School Postponed.”

May you walk with great power – Navajo and “Star Wars”

9 May 2013

The 1977 hit movie “Star Wars” is set to debut in Navajo (nav) on July 4.

In a collaboration between the Navajo Nation Museum and Lucasfilm, the new release will include English subtitles.

Translating popular films to Native American languages is rare, though it has happened with the “Berenstain Bears” (Lakota (lkt)) and “Bambi” (Arapaho (arp)).

Read more about this exciting development in “Luke Skywalker goes Navajo: ‘Star Wars’ gets a new translation.”