Up to ninety percent of the world's languages are predicted to disappear in the next century, many with little or no documentation.
This symposium will look at the reasons for this and address some of the issues.
Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli is Emeritus Mercers' School Memorial Professor of Commerce at Gresham College, having held the chair from 2005 to 2009. His first degree was in Government from Harvard, followed by mathematics and engineering studies at Trinity College Dublin and a PhD from the London School of Economics in chaotic systems, where he was also a Visiting Professor.
Professor Mainelli is Executive Chairman of Z/Yen, the City of London’s leading commercial think-tank and venture firm, which he co-founded in 1994 to promote societal advance through better finance and technology. A qualified accountant (FCCA), securities professional (FCSI), computer specialist (FBCS) and management consultant (FIC), Michael began his career as a research scientist in aerospace (rockets) and computing (architecture & mapping). He later became a senior partner with accountants BDO Binder Hamlyn directing global consulting projects. During the 1990s he worked for the UK Ministry of Defence as Corporate Development Director for Europe’s then largest R&D firm, the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency leading to two privatisations. Career highlights include directing Z/Yen’s Long Finance initiative with Gresham College and the City of London Corporation asking “when would we know our financial system is working?” as well as creating the Global Financial Centres Index, Global Intellectual Property Index, London Accord and Farsight Award. Michael also conceived and produced the first complete digital map of the world in 1983, Mundocart (a 1980’s Google Earth), and the $20 million Geodat consortium cartography project.
Michael is non-executive Director of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UK’s national body for standards and laboratories), AIM-listed Sirius Minerals plc (potash mining), AIM-listed Wishbone Gold Plc; Alderman for Broad Street Ward (elected) at the City of London Corporation; Almoner for Christ’s Hospital School; Trustee of International Fund for Animal Welfare. Michael has held numerous advisory posts, for example with Hitachi UK, City University and HM Treasury. Michael won a 1996 UK Foresight Challenge award for the Financial Laboratory, 2003 UK Smart Award for prediction software, 2005 British Computer Society Director of the Year, 2011 Technology Strategy Board Challenge Award for financial avatars, and was awarded Gentiluomo of the Associazione Cavalieri di San Silvestro in 2011. Michael is a Liveryman, Worshipful Company of World Traders, Freeman, Watermen & Lightermen, and represents the Financial Services Group of Livery Companies.
Michael has published over 40 journal articles, 150 commercial articles and four books. Michael’s humorous risk/reward management novel, Clean Business Cuisine: Now and Z/Yen, written with Ian Harris, was a Sunday Times Book of the Week in 2000; Accountancy Age described it as “surprisingly funny considering it is written by a couple of accountants”. Their third co-authored book, The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions, based on his Gresham lectures, won the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards Finance, Investment & Economics Gold Prize. Michael plays bagpipes, loves skiing and sailing and, with his wife, Elisabeth, he races and restores the 1923 Thames Sailing Barge Lady Daphne and sits on the world’s oldest sailing racing body, the Thames Match Committee. With an international family, Michael speaks English, German, French and Italian poorly, but even worse Spanish and Chinese.
To access all of Professor Mainelli's previous Gresham College lectures, please click here.
An honorary life fellow of Gresham College, Professor Tim Connell is an Emeritus Foundation professor at City, University of London, where he set up a full range of language activities over a period of nineteen years. He was a longstanding member of Senate and also chaired the Joint Negotiating Committee between management and unions. He is a graduate of Oxford, Liverpool and London universities, and has studied in Spain and Mexico. He also holds the degree of Doctor of Letters from City, University of London.
His particular interest is in the field of professional training for translators and interpreters, where he works closely with the Chartered Institute of Linguists, of which he has recently been appointed an Honorary Life Fellow in recognition of his seventeen years as Vice-President and eleven years as Chair of the Educational Trust over a thirty-year period of service. Tim is a regular contributor to the professional journal The Linguist and is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Languages Group, which he addresses with some regularity. He is a Visiting Professor at Richmond International University, developing links with links with China in particular.
International education is another area of key concern. Tim is deputy chair of the international course board for ESCP, (the French grande école based in Paris) which also covers London, Berlin, Madrid and Turin. He has had professional links with Latin America for many years, which has provided ample material for his classes on cultural communication and awareness.
He writes and broadcasts regularly on a wide range of themes relating to London, languages in the modern world and diverse cultural topics. In the past three years he has published chapters on livery companies in the City of London; Languages and Brexit; and he was the lead writer in 2018 for Get Smart About Scandals, a report on past lessons for future finance. He has also revised the history of Canning House, home to the Luso-Hispanic Brazilian Society, with which he has had an association for nearly forty years.
Tim has developed particular links in the Square Mile as a Freeman of the City of London and sits on the Court of the Stationers' Company where he Chair of Public Access Committee, which supports the Hall charity.
As a Fellow of Gresham College he sits on the Academic Board and has organised cycles of lectures in the Mondays at One series for 24 years, looking at topics of mainly current interest and speaks on a variety of subjects himself. He has devised half-day symposia on a wide range of themes with an invited panel of experts and is currently looking at the development of webinars. Since 2006 he has been Chairman of the Gresham Society, which supports Gresham College.
Professor Peter K. Austin is Märit Rausing Chair in Field Linguistics and Director of the Endangered Languages Academic Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Professor Austin joined SOAS in January 2003 after having held a Humboldt Prize at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt. He was previously Foundation Professor of Linguistics at the University of Melbourne (1996-2002) and has held visiting appointments at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, University of Hong Kong, and Stanford University. He studied at the Australian National University, completing a BA with first class Honours in Asian Studies (Japanese and Linguistics) in 1974, and a PhD in 1978 on the Diyari language spoken in the far north of South Australia. He taught at the University of Western Australia (1978), held a Harkness Fellowship for post-doctoral research at UCLA and MIT (1979-80), and in 1981 set up the Department of Linguistics at La Trobe University.
Professor Austin’s research interests cover descriptive, theoretical and applied linguistics and include theory and practice of language documentation, language typology, theoretical syntax, Lexical Functional Grammar, computer-aided linguistic analysis and lexicography. He has extensive fieldwork experience on Australian Aboriginal languages, and Sasak and Samawa, Austronesian languages spoken on Lombok and Sumbawa islands, eastern Indonesia. He has published 21 books, 7 bilingual dictionaries and over 70 articles, and has co-authored with David Nathan the first fully page-formatted hypertext dictionary on the World Wide Web, a bilingual dictionary of Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi), northern New South Wales (1995).
Recently, Professor Austin has been working with native-speaker scholar Eli Timan on documenting the Jewish Iraqi language, and with Dr Sabah Aldihisi on neo-Aramaic ritual language used by the Mandean community of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Mark Turin is a linguistic anthropologist. He studied archaeology and anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and holds a PhD in descriptive linguistics from Leiden University where he was affiliated to the Himalayan Languages Project during which time he wrote a grammar of Thangmi, a hitherto undescribed Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal. He is currently a Research Associate at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, where he directs both the recently established World Oral Literature Project, an urgent global initiative to document and make accessible endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record, and the Digital Himalaya Project which he co-founded in 2000 as a platform to make multi-media resources from the Himalayan region widely available online. He has also held research appointments at Cornell and Leipzig universities, and the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in Sikkim, India. From 2007 to 2008, he served as Chief of Translation and Interpretation at the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). He writes and lectures on ethnolinguistics, visual anthropology, digital archives and fieldwork methodology at the University of Cambridge. He is the author or coauthor of four books, the editor of four volumes and has published numerous articles and book chapters.