WSU Language Matters Series to Focus on Endangered Languages

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University will invite a trio of linguistic experts to speak out for the preservation of endangered languages in the three-part Language Matters Series Sept. 26, Oct. 3-4 and Oct. 9-10. All lectures are free, and the public is welcome.

The series, titled “Endangered Languages: Problems and Solutions,” will bring together three accomplished linguists: Lyle Campbell, Marianna Di Paolo and Felice Coles. Each will discuss the importance of preserving languages before they are lost to history.

“The prospect of languages going extinct has galvanized some linguists to concentrate their research on those languages,” said Mark LeTourneau, WSU English professor and series coordinator. “For example, Marianna Di Paolo is working on revitalizing Shoshoni, while Felice Coles has documented a dialect of Spanish (Isleño) spoken by a small community in Louisiana.”

More than 7,000 languages are currently spoken around the world. Of those, 347 are used by about 94 percent of the population. Experts predict, at the current rate of decline, within 100 years, the total number of languages spoken will be approximately 300.

Lecture 1, Lyle Campbell

Language Matters Series’ presenters each will focus on a different aspect of endangered languages. Lyle Campbell will kick off the series with “Endangered Languages: Why This Matters to You.” His lectures will be held Sept. 26 from noon-1:15 p.m. in the Stewart Library Hetzel-Hoellein Room 321, and from 7-8:30 p.m. in Elizabeth Hall room 229.

Campbell received his Ph.D. from UCLA and has taught all over the world. He has published 21 books and 200 articles. He founded and directed the “Catalogue of Endangered Languages” from 2009 to 2016. He specializes in language documentation and endangered languages, historical linguistics, indigenous languages of the Americas, typology and Uralic languages. Campbell is an emeritus professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lecture 2, Marianna Di Paolo

Marianna Di Paolo will focus on “Language Revitalization: Rebuilding the Shoshoni Speech Community.” As a sociolinguist, her research focuses on sociophonetics (study of sociolinguistic aspects of speech sounds), variation and change in Western American English and in Shoshoni, and the revitalization and documentation of the Shoshoni language. She will present Oct. 3 from 7-8:30 p.m. in Elizabeth Hall Room 229 and Oct. 4 from 10:30-11:20 a.m. in Lind Lecture Hall Room 129.

Di Paolo works as an associate professor and director of the Center for American Indian Languages in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah and as a research associate for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Lecture 3, Felice Coles

Felice Coles will complete the series with her discussion “Put It in Stone If You Have to: Preserving Endangered Languages Through Documentation.” Lectures will be held Oct. 9 from 9:30-10:20 a.m. in the Stewart Library Hetzel-Hoellein Room 321 and Oct. 10 from 7-8:30 p.m. in Elizabeth Hall Room 229.

Coles is a professor of Spanish and linguistics in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Mississippi. Her research interests include the traditional Isleño Spanish dialect of Louisiana, Hispanic sociolinguistics and language obsolescence. Currently, she is editor of the Southern Journal of Linguistics.

“For those interested in attending these lectures, this is a subject that is important to many fields of study,” LeTourneau said. “When a language dies, its culture dies with it: its literature, its history, its botany, its zoology, its forms of social or family organization. Thus, scholars and scientists across the disciplines have a stake in the survival of languages facing extinction. Documenting and revitalizing languages is indispensable to that project.”

WSU's Linguistics Minor

For students interested in linguistics, WSU offers a 21-credit-hour linguistics minor consisting of 18 credit hours of coursework and a three-hour capstone class. The goal of the program is to give students a thorough understanding of the field and provide them with relevant experience for their careers.

The linguistics minor, started in 2008, is an interdisciplinary minor involving eight departments — anthropology, English, psychology, teacher education, foreign language, communication, computer science and philosophy — from four WSU colleges. The program is open to all WSU students and complements many majors because of its wide applicability.

“Linguistics is sought after by law schools and graduate programs because of its interdisciplinary nature,” LeTourneau said. “Linguistics enters into every conceivable intellectual or cultural endeavor.”

Linguistics students often pursue careers in education, computer science, technology development, business, marketing and anthropology.

For more information on the minor, visit

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Mark LeTourneau, English professor
801-626-6386 •


Charles Bowker, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7295 •