Baffinuc Ilai (in white shirt), with Samantha Rarrick and Andrea Berez

Baffinuc Ilai (in white shirt), with Samantha Rarrick and Andrea Berez

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature’s Department of Linguistics and National Foreign Language Resource Center recently hosted the 4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation. The event attracted more than 450 participants from around the world who are engaged in documenting, preserving and revitalizing endangered languages. Titled “Enriching Theory, Practice, and Application,” the four-day gathering highlighted the importance and necessity of collaboration and integration in language learning and teaching.

There are almost 7,000 languages in the world and many experts believe that more than half of these languages will be extinct within 100 years. The impact and influence of this conference reverberates among participants throughout the international and indigenous communities they represent.

‘The conference stands at the forefront of cultural and scientific efforts to save thousands of languages, including the Hawaiian language,” said Jeffrey Carroll, dean of the UH Mānoa College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature. “We are proud to play a leadership role for this unique conference and in these important efforts.”

Conference participant Baffinuc Ilai keeping Kere traditions alive

Baffinuc Ilai travelled over 4,000 miles from Papua New Guinea to attend the conference. He speaks Kere, Tabare, Kuman and Tok Pisin, all languages of Papua New Guinea, as well as English. Ilai became involved in language documentation as a way to keep Kere traditions alive and to improve village life in his home region.

With a team that includes UH Mānoa Assistant Professor of Linguistics Andrea Berez and PhD student of linguistics Samantha Rarrick, Ilai helps to document Kere through a video project funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme based at the University of London. The program’s mission it is to research the world’s most endangered languages.

As the project’s language consultant, Ilai is the integral link to the community. He masterfully creates documentaries of traditional practices and stories. Undertaking such endeavors could not even be considered without a local person of Ilai’s capabilities and knowledge. Fueled by his tireless efforts, the Kere project aims to create, sustain and promote language and cultural resources and practices for future generations.

A College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature news release

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