Langues menacées et territoire

Háskóli Íslands

Endangered Languages and the Land; Mapping Landscapes of Multilingualism – FEL Conference XXII (2018)

23-25 August 2018

Venue: Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding, University of Iceland

Special theme: 20 years of Language Documentation

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding and the Foundation for Endangered Languages cordially invite scholars, community organizations and community members working on the revitalization of endangered languages, their documentation and archiving to join the International Conference on “Endangered Languages and the Land” that will take place in Reykjavík, Iceland, on 23-25 August.

This is “FEL XXII”, the Foundation of Endangered Languages’ 22nd issue of a series of yearly conferences, for which printed proceedings will be published.

The conference language is English.

Madame Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland and UNESCO Goodwill-Ambassador for languages, and Madame Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland, will address the participants at the opening of the conference.

Keynote speakers


The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding and the Foundation for Endangered Languages cordially invite scholars, community organizations and community members to join the International Conference Endangered Languages and the Land: Mapping Landscapes of Multilingualism, to take place in Reykjavík, Iceland, from August 23rd to 25th 2018. The conference will be of interest to all those working on the maintenance, revitalization, documentation and archiving of endangered languages.

This conference is FEL XXII, the 22nd annual conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages. A proceedings volume will be published.

Main themes

Endangered Languages and the Land

There is a strong connection between languages and the places where they are spoken. Land is a key part of the identity of a language speaking community. The lexicon and structures of a language are shaped by speakers’ appreciation of local geographical and ecological features. Contact-induced language change can reflect the ways that geography has influenced patterns of contact. Toponymies (place naming practices) reflect the languages that are or were spoken in a territory. Today, the availability of a territory where a language is ‘at home’ is one of the key factors for its vitality. In countries where Indigenous peoples seek land rights, their affiliations with languages can be factors in success.

The conference will pose questions such as: how do language endangerment scenarios vary in different regions in the world? What roles do land (or lack of it) play in speakers’ continued use of their languages? To take one example, many Indigenous communities in Australia have immutable connections between language and land, and language affiliations follow from people’s relationships with land. In other parts of the world, scattered communities can retain their identity through sharing a common language communicated across distances.

Mapping Multilingualism

How can we make relationships between language and land visible? Language maps are a frequently used tool. However, current practice in language mapping needs to be further developed. Most current language maps use either points or bounded areas (usually non-overlapping) to represent the location or range of individual languages – but the true language landscape is typically much more complex than that.

One reason for that is multilingualism. In many parts of the world, there are complex layers of languages that perform complementary functions in the life of communities. Many individuals are multilingual, whether as Indigenous people, members of a minority speaking a heritage language, migrants bringing their language into the diaspora, as language learners in a globalized world, or people interacting on-line in a lingua franca with the global community.

Special theme: 20 years of language documentation

This year marks twenty years since the publication of Nikolaus Himmelmann’s seminal paper “Documentary and Descriptive Linguistics” in Linguistics. Since then, Language Documentation has developed mainly as a response to the need to make lasting records of the world’s many endangered languages, and to support speakers of these languages in their desire to maintain them. Funding programmes such as DOBES, ELDP and DEL have supported language documentation activities with language communities, encouraged linguists to work with primary (digital) data, and, more broadly, raised public awareness of language endangerment.

These activities are now needed more urgently than ever, as in most areas of the world the pressure on local communities to shift to major languages has increased, and language maintenance activities are often insufficient to prevent language shift. However it may appear that the tide of Language Documentation has already passed its peak, with slowdowns in funding, establishment of centres and academic positions, and formulation of proactive language policies.


Contact: vimiuc@hi.is (main organizer: Sebastian Drude sdrude@hi.is)

For the FEL page on this conference, see  HERE  –  For earlier FEL conferences, see  HERE

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