How should we talk about language endangerment?

On February 14, 2019, Mary Louise Pratt gave a fascinating and well-attended Sawyer Seminar lecture entitled “Toward A Geolinguistic Imagination.” Pratt, a renowned scholar of Latin American cultural studies whose theoretical concepts, such as “contact zones,” have contributed contributions to a variety of fields, has recently turned her attention to questions of language justice and the relationship…

Global Language Justice in the Digital Sphere

  One of the keystones of the Global Language Justice Sawyer-Seminar was Dr. Isabelle Zaugg’s course, Global Language Justice in the Digital Sphere, offered in spring of 2018 and 2019. The students’ final projects were particularly rich and in-depth explorations of the topic of GLJ, which highlight the multi-faceted nature of this field. The students’…

Global Justice for Indigenous Languages (III of IV)

During the final hour of our Global Justice for Indigenous Languages Symposium, I was keeping track of the attendees who had raised their hand to ask a question or make a comment and making sure that they had the microphone—after all, one of the issues that kept coming up that day was the unethical practices…

Ethics of the Untranslatable: Role of Public Policies in Creating Justice for Indigenous Languages (II of IV)

Part II of our UN Forum series on Global Justice for Indigenous Languages In his impassioned speech during the first session of our symposium, Chief Wilton Littlechild described the trauma of his upbringing in at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Maskwacis, Alberta. These schools, which Chief Littlechild described as a “legislative form of assimilation,” were…

UN Forum: Global Justice for Indigenous Languages (I of IV)

On April 21, 2018, the GLJ initiative partnered with the United Nations to hold a symposium titled “Global Justice for Indigenous Languages.”  As 2019 is the UN-declared Year of Indigenous Languages, the event seemed fitting for something held a year in advance: a gathering of leaders in language revitalization, indigenous rights, and UN policy-makers to…

Workshop on Multilingual Spaces: City, Classroom, and Cyberspace

On March 28, 2018, the GLJ group conducted a public workshop for the learning community at Columbia University on the issue of multilingual spaces.  How exactly does language structure space, both in the city that we inhabit and in the classrooms in which we teach?  What about the digital spaces of the internet and social…

Language Preservation through Character Encoding

What is Unicode? And how can it help in the quest to preserve the endangered languages of the world? Before February 15, 2018, I had a partial answer to the first of these two questions. I had heard the name “Unicode” and had a vague idea of what it was. But I had no idea…