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April 5, 2007
CONTACT: Pam Young
pyoung@emich.edu 734.487.4400

EMUís internationally-renowned LINGUIST List hosts 2007 fund drive to raise funds for endangered languages research

FLINT — Research into endangered languages will get a boost, thanks to a unique institute’s efforts to raise funds for students involved with linguist research.

The Institute for Language and Information Technology (ILIT), a linguistics research center at Eastern Michigan University, is currently conducting its 14th annual fund drive through April 20. The goal is to raise $55,000.

The money raised pays for graduate assistantships for students conducting research into endangered languages worldwide. The money also is used to attract top prospective graduates, both domestic and international, to study at EMU.

By Monday, April 2, the drive had raised more than $30,000 toward its goal. (For information on the drive or to make a contribution, visit http://linguistlist.org/donation/index.html.)

“Every penny is an investment both in the discipline's present infrastructure and in its future well-being,” said Helen Aristar-Dry, who along with Anthony Aristar, are co-directors of the ILIT. Both are professors in EMU’s Department of English Language and Literature.

The ILIT students do a variety of projects, but most are involved with The LINGUIST List, the largest online database of tools for linguistic researchers in the United States.  The List is an Internet network and research facility that has become the electronic center of the discipline of linguistics, serving as a central information resource for the field and as a laboratory for research and development of language technologies.

The LINGUIST Web site has more than 2,000 pages, and hosts a listserve that delivers an average of 117,703 linguistically-related messages a day.

The two main LINGUIST lists have more than 26,700 subscribers from 140 countries, but it also hosts 183 more linguistic lists with a total of 40,000 additional subscribers. It includes a directory of 14,600 linguists, with details of the kind of work they do and the languages and areas they specialize in researching.

In 2006, The LINGUIST List generated 3,700 issues containing new book announcements, journal table of contents, book reviews and announcements of jobs worldwide. In addition, LINGUIST List host services like Ask-A-Linguist, which lets the general public ask questions of a panel of 60 expert linguists.

Anthony Aristar founded the LINGUIST List in Australia in 1990. In 1991, Helen Aristar-Dry joined him as co-director. After she joined EMU’s English department as a linguistics professor that same year, an editing site was established at EMU. Over the years, the EMU editing site expanded with the addition of computer servers and complex student-written and –managed databases. When ILIT formed last year, it was a natural development for Aristar to come to EMU from his teaching position at Wayne State University. This last move unified all of operations of The LINGUIST List at EMU.

ILIT has been prominent in conducting research into the application of Internet technology to linguistics. The Institute has initiated a number of projects in this area, and runs workshops that bring together linguistic field workers and computer scientists in an attempt to build consensus between these groups. These projects have been largely funded by grants from the National Science Foundation,

Among the funded projects are E-MELD, which is devoted to developing technologies and standards for better documenting and preserving endangered languages data; the LL-MAP Project, which is developing a system for mapping linguistic information against non-linguistic information through a geographical information system interface; and the Multi-Tree Project, which is developing a database of all the relationships between languages, allowing the linguistic mapping of human movement through time.

Of The LINGUIST List’s 20 employees, all but three are pursuing two-year master’s degrees in linguistics and computer science at EMU. Student editors read, classify and approve every item and page posted on the Web. In addition, they communicate regularly with the site’s readers, individuals, departments and publishers.

Since The LINGUIST List is free, the annual fund drive plays a key role in maintain that access. The drive is a time when students can have fun and show off their talents by requiring them to create interesting and interactive Web pages, which entice readers and potential donors to keep returning just to see what the students have thought up that day. Typically, there is a storyline with plots and characters whose names and behavior derive from plays on words drawn from the discourse of linguistics. (To see the sophisticated graphic interface developed for the 2007 Fund Drive and to enjoy the fun, games, and language puzzles, go to: http://linguistlist.org/donation/fund-drive2007/index.cfm.)

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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