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(January 2017) As part of its ongoing involvement in cutting-edge linguistics, SIL sent eleven staff to participate in this year’s LSA Annual Meeting, held 5-8 January in Austin, Texas. The LSA is an association of professional linguists, linguistics students and others with an interest in the field of linguistics, and this gathering provides a forum to connect and collaborate with those who share this interest.
A new popular event this year was the “5-minute-linguist." Eight linguists were chosen to present 5-minute talks on their current research, so as to be understandable by a general audience. One of these short presentations was on a family sign language in Turkey. In attendance, Dr. Albert Bickford, Linguistic Services Coordinator for SIL’s Global Sign Languages Team, was encouraged by the increasing number of people engaged in research and presenting their information on sign languages. This year’s LSA included thirteen sign presentations and four posters that touched on sign languages. There was one entire session devoted to the phonology of fingerspelling.
SIL has a long history of participation with the LSA, and again this year was an exhibitor at the conference, offering information on the many ways SIL assists linguists. A major aim of the booth was the opportunity for SIL staff to network and interact with other attendees who are also actively involved in the language documentation community and those with a concern for endangered languages. Visitors were reminded that SIL is the organization behind Ethnologue, FLEx (FieldWorks Language Explorer), Dictionary App Builder and other software tools for language analysis and documentation.
Stutzman showed how Webonary supports audio, images, non-Roman scripts, different language user interfaces (UIs) and comments, and how easy it is to upload lexical data from FLEx to Webonary, enabling ongoing edits and updates.
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Demonstrated at the booth was the online Webonary, a repository for posting dictionaries, in whatever stage of development they exist. Verna Stutzman, coordinator of SIL’s Dictionary & Lexicography Services team, also gave mini-presentations to 61 participants. The presentations featured the 97 multilingual dictionaries published on Webonary from 35+ countries.
A focal point of the booth was the well-recognized Ethnologue: Languages of the World, which is available online as well as in print. SIL staff explained how Ethnologue online has a place for feedback and correspondence, and noted that Ethnologue staff welcomes documentation on proposed changes.
Also displayed were the most recent SIL publications, Sudanese Colloquial Arabic for Beginners, Fourth Edition by Andrew M. Persson and Janet R. Persson, and Sustaining Language Use: Perspectives on Community-Based Language Development by M. Paul Lewis, PhD and Gary F. Simons, PhD. Some SIL publications were available for purchase.
Of interest to many visitors was the display of literacy materials from around the world, such as local dictionaries and grammars, primers, folk tales, Scripture, and health and human rights information. The booth gave the opportunity for visitors to interact with SIL staff, discussing topics in their expertise, such as linguistics, sociolinguistics, orthography and sign language.
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the International Journal of American Linguistics [IJAL]. The IJAL Board hosted a reception and a panel, which included comments by SIL’s Dr. Steve Marlett. The development of IJAL parallels the development of 20th century linguistics. SIL congratulates the University of Chicago Press staff and the many contributors who make this publication relevant in the 21st century.