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ELDP Project Highlight: The Endangered Papuan Languages of Merauke-Indonesia: ethnobiological and linguistic documentation

Today on the ELAR blog, we are featuring Wayan Arka’s project: ‘The Endangered Papuan Languages of Merauke-Indonesia: ethnobiological and linguistic documentation‘. This project is an ethnobiological documentation of two endangered Papuan languages of the Wasur National Park, Merauke-Indonesia: Marori and Smärky Kanum.

On the impact on community/speakers:

The impact of our project can be described in terms of the following categories: (i) improved awareness of language endangerment and importance of language documentation and maintenance though meetings with all stakeholders in Merauke, including a town hall meeting, a picnic meeting with the local young people, and local press coverage; (ii) capacity building through training in the tools for language documentation, through the involvement of Mr. Agus Mahuze’s work with the local school and the local government in relation to the local language contents in school curriculum in Merauke, and (iii) employment through the recruitment of local RAs and language consultants. At this stage, it is too early to assess the tangible long-term impact of the project.

Depositor I Wayan Arka involves community members with filming during the project

Scientific highlight of the project:

There are at least two points that we want to highlight. First, socio-political, ecological and cultural variables appear to be critical in language endangerment, and therefore need to be taken seriously in any language maintenance/revitalisation effort. Second, the idea of evidence-based and need-based language revitalisation also needs to be taken seriously; e.g. in the context of literacy and capacity building in endangered minority languages to empower the locals so that they can be independent, active agents in language maintenance/revitalisation. Our experience in the current documentation project suggests that this is a neglected area of applied research that needs expertise beyond linguistics.

Markus Langgai Mahuze (r) takes part in ethnobiological and linguistic documentation

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