November 07, 2006

Leanne Hinton Wins Lannan Award

Yesterday's New York Times carried a full-page ad announcing the 2006 winners of Lannan Awards for Cultural Freedom. One recipient is Leanne Hinton of the University of California at Berkeley, arguably the world's most effective and influential advocate for language preservation and revitalization. Leanne has long worked with California Indian tribes who are on the point of losing, or have lost, their heritage languages. Her famous Master-Apprentice program has been adopted by communities in which a few elders still speak the tribal language fluently; her regular Breath of Life workshops at Berkeley are an important resource for communities whose languages are no longer spoken but are sufficiently well documented that they can (with hard work and some luck) be revived. Shortly before Ken Hale died, he and Leanne co-edited the influential sourcebook The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice. Everyone who works with Native American tribes, and with other communities around the world whose heritage languages are endangered or moribund, is greatly indebted to Leanne for her work and her inspiration. And with the most optimistic estimates predicting the death of 50% of the world's 6,000 or so languages by the end of this century (the most pessimistic estimates range up to a 90% extinction tally by 2100), all linguists ought to respect Leanne's work and to congratulate her on her Lannan Award.

Posted by Sally Thomason at November 7, 2006 07:26 AM