Symposium examines how technology may help save native languages

Daylong symposium features participants working on languages of the Americas

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Wilson de Lima Silva, seated right, at a language documentation workshop in a Desano village in Northwestern Amazonia, Brazil.

A symposium to discuss the documentation, conservation and revitalization of American Indian Languages will be held Friday, April 17, at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (rooms 2120 and 2130 in Louise Slaughter Hall).

The symposium will also provide a forum for the exchange of research among scholars, members of the indigenous communities, native speakers, educators and language activists who document, conserve and revitalize languages.

“This is a public event for any open-minded individual interested in knowing more about the linguistic and cultural diversity in the Americas,” said Wilson De Lima Silva, symposium organizer and assistant research professor in RIT’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “Unfortunately, most of the native languages are endangered, and in the symposium we will be discussing, among other things, how we can use digital technologies to help preserve these languages.”

The symposium starts at 9:15 a.m. and continues through 7 p.m. Keynote speaker is Keren Rice from the University of Toronto, who will give her opinion on the ways development of technology have changed the world of language revitalization and documentation.

At 3:15 p.m., filmmaker Cat Ashworth, associate professor at RIT’s School of Film and Animation, and producer G. Peter Jemison from the Ganondagan Historic Site southeast of Rochester, will talk on the development of their upcoming film, Iroquois Creation Story of Haudenosaunee.

The theme is “Tools and Techniques for Language Documentation and Revitalization: Media and Technology” and the symposium is an initiative of RIT’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology and RIT’s Future Stewards Native American Program.

The event is open to the public for $25, or free to RIT students, alumni, employees and members of Native American groups.

For a list of speakers, topics, to register or for more information, go to