World-renowned linguist David Harrison to discuss effort to save endangered languages

World-renown linguist and author David Harrison will speak at UNK April 25. His presentation “Saving Endangered Languages” is 4 p.m. in Copeland Hall Room 140. (Photo courtesy Chris Rainier)
World-renowned linguist and author David Harrison will speak April 25 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. His presentation, “Saving Endangered Languages,” is 4 p.m. in Copeland Hall Room 140. (Photo courtesy Chris Rainier)

KEARNEY – Half the world’s languages are in danger of disappearing this century.

David Harrison, a linguist, author and expert in the study of endangered languages, has dedicated his career to documenting these languages in an effort to keep them alive.

His work was featured in the Emmy-nominated 2008 documentary film “The Linguists” and he authored the book “The Last Speakers” with National Geographic.

Harrison will discuss his mission during a presentation titled “Saving Endangered Languages” at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The event, hosted by the UNK International Studies Program and co-sponsored by the English and modern languages departments, is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 25 in Copeland Hall room 140. It’s free and open to the public.

The presentation will feature photos and video clips of some of the world’s most endangered languages – from Siberia, India, the United States and other locations – and demonstrate how indigenous activists and linguists are working to sustain these languages using technology and art.

Harrison, a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, has been affiliated with the National Geographic Society since 2007, co-directing the Enduring Voices Project and providing cultural expertise for expeditions, publications and web content.

His research, which includes fieldwork in central Siberia, Mongolia, India, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Vanuatu, explores the sounds, lexicon, grammar and cultural knowledge found in the world’s languages. At Swarthmore College, he works with students and speakers of minority and endangered languages to create “talking dictionaries” and other digital tools.

Harrison, who has authored several books and lectures on the value of linguistic and cultural diversity, also serves as director of research for the nonprofit Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.


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