- SIL International
SIL International (the official name of what was originally the Summer Institute of Linguistics) is a worldwide U.S.-based
non-profitevangelical Christian organization whose main purpose is to study, develop and document lesser-known languages in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacyand aid minority languagedevelopment.
SIL International is the sister organization of
Wycliffe Bible Translators, an agency dedicated to translating the Bibleinto minority languages. The organization provides a database of its research into the world's languages through its Ethnologue, a database of the world's languages. It has more than 6,000 members from over 50 countries.
SIL International started as a small summer training session in the
U.S. stateof Arkansasin 1934 to train missionaries of what later became Wycliffe Bible Translatorsin basic linguistic, anthropologicaland translationprinciples. The founder was William Cameron Townsend(1896-1982), a former Disciples of Christmissionary to Guatemala. Its headquarters are located in the southern section of Dallas, Texas.
From the 1950s to 1987, SIL training was hosted by the
University of Oklahomain Norman. The agreement between the university and SIL was terminated in 1987 after a controversy about SIL being involved in missionary activities and its relationship with Latin American governments. SIL training is now offered in many locations around the world.
One of the students at the first summer institute in its second year 1935 was
Kenneth L. Pike(1912–2000), who was to become the foremost figure in the history of SIL. He served as SIL's President from 1942–1979 and then as President Emeritus until his death in 2000. He worked at the University of Michiganfor many years. SIL's current president is Dr. John Watters, who took the office in 2008, after serving as Executive Director 2000-2007.
Affiliated bodies and other offices
Besides the headquarters in Dallas, SIL has offices and locally incorporated affiliated organizations in a number of countries: [ [http://www.sil.org/worldwide.html SIL International Worldwide] ]
Cameroon: Yaounde(central office), Bamenda(regional office), Maroua(regional bureau for the north of the country)
Mexico: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano (Mexico), based in Tlalpan(Distrito Federal)
Peru: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano (Peru), based in Lima
China: cooperation with a number of research organizations and government agencies. [ [http://www.eastasiagroup.net/partnerships SIL East Asia Group: Chinese partnerships] ]
Papua New Guinea: Ukarumpa
SIL's principal contribution to linguistics has been the data that has been gathered and analysed from over 1,000 minority and endangered languages [ [http://www.sil.org/SOCIOLX/NDG-LG-GRPS.HTML Endangered Language Groups ] ] , many of which had not been previously studied academically. SIL endeavors to share both the data and the results of analysis in order to contribute to the overall knowledge of language. This has resulted in publications on languages such as
Hixkaryanaand Pirahã which have challenged the universality of some linguistic theories. SIL's work has resulted in over 20,000 technical publications, all of which are listed in the SIL Bibliography [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/bibliography.asp Ethnologue Bibliography] ] . Most of these are a reflection of linguistic fieldwork [ [http://www.sil.org/linguistics/fieldwork.html Linguistics fieldwork in SIL ] ] .
SIL's focus has not been on the development of new linguistic theories, but
tagmemics, though no longer promoted by SIL, was developed by Kenneth Pike, who also coined the words eticand emic, more widely used today in anthropology.
Another focus of SIL is literacy work, particularly in indigenous languages. SIL assists local, regional, and national agencies that are developing formal and informal education in vernacular languages. These cooperative efforts enable new advances in the complex field of educational development in multilingual and multicultural societies [ [http://www.sil.org/sil/ About SIL International ] ] .
SIL provides instructors and instructional materials for linguistics programs at several major institutions of higher learning around the world. In the
USAthese include Biola University, Moody Bible Institute, Houghton College, University of North Dakota, Bryan College, University of Texas at Arlington, the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguisticsand Dallas Theological Seminary. Other universities with SIL programmes include Trinity Western Universityin Canadaand Charles Darwin Universityin Australia.
SIL also presents the fruits of some its research through the International Museum of Culture. [ [http://www.internationalmuseumofcultures.org/info/about.html The International Museum of Cultures ] ] Located in
Dallas, Texas, it was developed by linguists and anthropologists associated with SIL International for the purpose of celebrating peoples of diverse cultures in an effort to promote greater appreciation and understanding of cultural differences.
SIL holds formal consultative status with
UNESCOand United Nations, and has been publicly recognized by UNESCO for their work in many parts of Asia. [ [http://www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=2900 APPEAL: SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) International ] ] SIL also holds non-governmental organizationstatus in many countries.
SIL's work has received appreciation and recognition in a number of international settings. In 1973, SIL was awarded the
Ramon Magsaysay Awardfor International Understanding. This foundation honors outstanding individuals and organizations working in Asia who manifest greatness of spirit in service to the peoples of Asia. [ [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Response/ResponseSIL.htm 1973 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for International Understanding - Summer Institute of Linguistics ] ] Other notable examples include a UNESCO award and the 1979 International Reading Association Literacy Award for literacy work in Papua New Guinea [ [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/SS/pas2_print.html Handbook of Texas Online - SUMMER INSTITUTE OF LINGUISTICS ] ] .
Ethnologue and the SIL code
Ethnologue, the most comprehensive guide to the world's languages, is published by SIL. It assigns three-letter codes to languages, which are widely used by other linguists. The 15th edition of the Ethnologue was published in 2005 and generally uses the ISO 639-3standard. SIL is the registrar for the ISO 639-3 standard.
Controversy and SIL's Response
In the book, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins, (Page 141-143) he states that the Ecuadoran President accused SIL of working with US based oil companies in order to persuade the local tribes to deed over the rights to their lands to the oil companies for oil exploration. He alleged that the food baskets they dropped to the native tribes were bugged so the oil companies could eavesdrop on them, so when people became sick the missionaries mysteriously came up with a cure and that laxatives were put in the food and the missionaries later turned up with medicine. They would then move to camps where they would have to be dependent on SIL for food and medicine. (No further data to support this claim). See SIL Response to Perkins. [http://www.sil.org/sil/facts/JPerkins.htm]
SIL has been accused of being involved in moving indigenous populations in
South Americafrom their native lands to make way for exploitation schemes of North American and European oil corporations. The most well known example is the case of the Huaoranipeople in Ecuador, which resulted in many deaths and the moving of the people into reservations controlled by the missionaries.Fact|date=February 2008
In 1975, thirty anthropologists signed "The Denouncement of Pátzcuaro", alleging that SIL was a "tool of imperialism", linked to the
CIAand "divisions within the communities that constitutes a hindrance to their organization and the defence of their communal rights".Fact|date=February 2008
In 1979, SIL's agreement with the Mexican government was officially terminated, but it continued to be active in that country [Clarke, p. 182] . The same happened in 1980 in
Ecuador[Yashar 2005, p. 118] , although a token presence remained. Remnants of SIL presence were protested in every subsequent Native South American uprising [Cleary/Steigenga 2004, p. 37] . In the early 1990s, the newly-formed organisation of indigenous people of Ecuador CONAIEonce more demanded the expulsion of SIL from the country [Yashar 2005, p. 146] .
At a conference of the Inter-
American IndianInstitute in Mérida, Yucatán, in November 1980, delegates denounced the Summer Institute of Linguistics for using a scientific name to conceal its religious agenda and capitalist worldview that was alien to indigenous traditions [Bonner 1999, p. 20] .
Opponents have alleged Weasel word|date=February 2008 that SIL was financed initially by
expatriatecoffee processors in Guatemala, and later by the Rockefellers, Standard Oil, the timber company Weyerhauser, and USAID. By the 1980s, [SIL] was expelled from Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, and Panama, and restricted in Colombiaand Peru[Cleary/Steigenga 2004, p. 36] .
Today, according to SIL's
annual report, it is funded by donations from individuals, churches, and other organizations, channeled to SIL by the Wycliffe Bible Translators [http://www.sil.org/sil/annualreport/English.pdf]
* [http://www.sil.org SIL international]
* [http://www.sil.org/klp/ Kenneth L. Pike]
* [http://www.sil.org/computing/ the SIL computing catalog]
* [http://scripts.sil.org/ scripts.sil.org] Freely available complex scripts technology,
Unicode fontsand documentation from SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative
* [http://www.sil.org/sil/news/2005/wsis.htm Breaking the Language Barrier] SIL launches free open-source software at
World Summit on the Information Society. Software to bridge the digital divide for ethnic minority languages (SIL International Media Release)
* [http://www.sil.org/sil/facts/JPerkins.htm Facts on File] SIL Response to Errors in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man"
Criticism of SIL activities
* Carmelo Ruiz: [http://www.cephas-library.com/church_n_state_rockefeller_and_evangelism.html Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil] Book review of "Thy Will Be Done, The Conquest of the Amazon" by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett (Harper Collins 1995, ISBN 0-06-016764-5). Background of the work of SIL in the Amazon region.
* Cedric Muhammad: [http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=38 On The CIA And Christian Missionaries] ("BlackElectorate", May 13, 2001)
* Nikolas Kozloff: [http://www.coha.org/NEW_PRESS_RELEASES/New_Press_Releases_2005/05.103_Venezuelan_Evangelicals_and_Robertson.html Evangelicals in Venezuela] Robertson Only the Latest Controversy In a Long and Bizarre History ("Council On Hemispheric Affairs", September 19, 2005)
* Paul Heggarty: [http://www.quechua.org.uk/Eng/Main/i_MISS.HTM This (www.quechua.org.uk) Site’s Views on Missionary Work]
* JAARS : JAARS has its headquarters in
Waxhaw, North Carolina. Its purpose is to provide technical support services to Wycliffe Bible Translatorsand to SIL International.
* Kittipong Thavevong: [http://www.germany-at-wsis.info/?p=110 Helping minority people type in their own scripts] ("The Nation", Bangkok, via the German presence at the
World Summit on the Information Society)
*Ruth Margaret Brend, Kenneth Lee Pike (eds.): "The Summer Institute of Linguistics: Its Works and Contributions" (Walter De Gruyter 1977), ISBN 90-279-3355-3.
*Gerard Colby, Charlotte Dennett: "Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil" (Harper Collins 1995), ISBN 0-06-016764-5. This book contains allegations of Rockefeller's use of American missionaries, and in particular, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, who cooperated in conducting surveys, transporting
CIAagents and indirectly assisting in the genocide of tribes in the Amazon basin.
*John Perkins: "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" (Plume Publishers 2006), ISBN 0-452-28708-1. Contains several references to SIL missionary activities and displacement of indigenous peoples in South America.
*W. A Willibrand: "Oklahoma Indians and the Summer Institute of Linguistics" (1953).
*Søren Hvalkof, Peter Aaby (eds.): "Is God an American? An Anthropological Perspective on the Missionary Work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics" (A Survival International Document, International Workgroup for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen/London 1981), ISBN 87-980717-2-6.
*Eni Pucinelli Orlandi: Sprache, Glaube, Macht: "Ethik und Sprachenpolitik / Language, Faith, Power: Ethics and Language Policy", in: Brigitte Schlieben-Lange (ed.): "Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 116, Katechese, Sprache, Schrift" (University of Siegen / J.B. Metzler 1999) The author presents a discourse analysis of the practices of SIL.
*Laurie K. Hart: "The Story of the Wycliffe Translators: Pacifying the Last Frontiers". In: "NACLA's Latin America & Empire Report", vol. VII, no. 10 (1973). This article describes SIL's collaboration with US oil corporations and military governments in South America in the 1950s and 1960s.
*Michael Erard: "How Linguists and Missionaries Share a Bible of 6,912 Languages". In: New York Times, July 19, 2005.
*Peter Gow: "An Amazonian Myth and Its History" (Oxford University Press 2001), ISBN 0-19-924195-3 / ISBN 0-19-924196-1.
*Colin Clarke: "Class, Ethnicity, and Community in Southern Mexico": Oaxaca's Peasentries (Oxford University Press 2001), ISBN 0-19-823387-6. [http://www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-823387-6.pdf]
*Arthur Bonner: "We Will Not Be Stopped: Evangelical Persecution, Catholicism, and Zapatismo in Chiapas, Mexico" (Universal Publishers 1999), ISBN 1-58112-864-9.
*Edward L. Cleary, Timothy J. Steigenga: "Resurgent Voice in Latin America: Indigenous Peoples, Political Mobilization, and Religious Change" (Rutgers University Press 2004), ISBN 0-8135-3461-5.
*David Stoll: "Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire? The Wycliffe Bible Translators in Latin America. A US Evangelical Mission in the Third World" (London, Zed Press 1983), ISBN 0-86232-111-5. Criticism of SIL missionary activities.
*Norman Lewis: "The Missionaries" (London, Secker and Warburg 1988; McGraw-Hill Companies 1989), ISBN 0-07-037613-1.
*Richard Pettifer, Julian Bradley: "Missionaries" (
BBCPublications 1991), ISBN 0-563-20702-7.
*Deborah J. Yashar: "Contesting Citizenship In Latin America. The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge" (Cambridge University Press 2005), ISBN 0-521-82746-9.
*Castro Mantilla, Maria Dolores: "El Trabajo del ILV en Bolivia", 1954—1980, Informe Final ("The Work of SIL in Bolivia, 1954-1980, Final Report"; La Paz, Ministerio de Desarollo Humano 1996). This report in Spanish contains a detailed chart of SIL activities in Latin American countries.
*Cobbs, Elizabeth A. "Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil - book reviews" ("Christian Century", Nov 1, 1995) [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_n31_v112/ai_17611082]
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