Council of Indigenous Peoples, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office and Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association co-hosted the 2019 International Austronesian Languages Revitalization Forum on September 29. Representatives, experts, and scholars from 11 countries attended, including the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, the Republic of Palau, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, United States, Australia and R. O. C. (Taiwan),about 120 people participated.
The full text of CIP Minister Icyang's opening speech is as follows:
Queen of Palau Bilung, Madame Debbie Remengesau, Ambassador Wallace M.G. Chow of the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), distinguished guests from around the world, good morning, nga’ayho！
First of all, on behalf of the Taiwanese government, I’d like to extend our warmest welcome to all of you to Palau, this beautiful country, to attend the 2019 International Austronesian Languages Revitalization Forum jointly held by Taiwan, the United States and Japan.
Echoing UNESCO’s declaration of 2019 as the international year of indigenous languages, the 2019 International Austronesian Languages Revitalization Forum is organized by Taiwan-U.S. Global Cooperation and Training Forum (GCTF) with a highlight on implementation and prospects. Three primary goals for the international year of indigenous languages are: support and provide service for indigenous language revitalization, protect the rights of use of indigenous languages, and promote indigenous languages and knowledge in mainstream cultures. It is our hope that the government can review administrative progress and thoroughly carry out promises made on the preservation, promotion and revitalization of indigenous languages. We’d also like to share our experiences through international collaborations.
In fact, 40% of the world’s 6,700 languages are facing the danger of extinction, most of which are indigenous languages. Keeping languages alive is a shared challenge faced by governments around the world. We hope this forum can lead to feasible ways to revitalize endangered languages through vibrant exchanges of experiences.
Consisting of more than 1,200 languages, the Austronesian language family is the most widespread family of languages. The Austronesian region is marked by Taiwan in the north, New Zealand in the south, Madagascar in the west and Easter Island in the east.
Now, let me illustrate the commonality in languages shared between indigenous peoples in Taiwan and the Austronesian family by one simple word. In Amis language, the eye is called “Mata”. “Mata” is also the word for the eye in Bunun, Kavalan, Sakizaya, and Yami languages. In Fijian, Kiribati, Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog (Filipino), and Maori, Mata also means the eye.
Another example is the word “Lima”. Among the 16 indigenous tribes in Taiwan, Lima means the number, 5, in 12 indigenous languages. It also means 5 in Fijian, Kiribati, Indonesian, Malay and Maori. From these examples, we can easily see the commonalities shared in Austronesian languages that suggest the shared roots of our cultures.
As the birthplace of the Austronesian language family, Taiwan is willing to work with Austronesian countries. We've established the Austronesian Forum as a platform for dialogues in an effort to preserve and revitalize Austronesian languages and promote international awareness on Austronesian cultures.
In addition, I’d like to share with you the progress we’ve made in Taiwan with indigenous language policies. In 2017, we passed the Indigenous Languages Development Act, which definitively acknowledges indigenous languages as national languages. The Taiwanese government is also dedicating resources to the revitalization of indigenous languages. We’ve established the Foundation for the Research and Development of Indigenous Languages to carry out concrete actions in achieving goals for the international year of indigenous languages. More details will be shared in my colleague’s presentation scheduled in the afternoon sessions.
In the end, I would like to thank scholars and experts from Australia, the United States, Indonesia, Palau, New Zealand, and Taiwan, for joining this forum. We will be hearing keynote speeches on the origin of Austronesian languages in various aspects including archeology, linguistics, and botany. Moreover, examples of language revitalization in each country will be shared, and your viewpoints and comments are considered important references for future language revitalization efforts in the Austronesian region. Meanwhile, please take this forum as an opportunity to get to know one another and facilitate cross-border cooperation and connection in the Austronesian family!
Last but not least, best wishes to the forum and all of you. ARAY! Thank you!
Distinguished guests at the 2019 Austronesian Languages Revitalization Forum includes Minister Hon. Baklai Temengil of Community and Cultural Affairs, Ambassador Wallace Chow of Taiwan to Palau, Ambassador Amy J. Hyatt, U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Palau, and Director Tadataka Ikeda of Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Taipei Office.
On behalf of His Excellency President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., Minister Hon. Baklai Temengil extended the warmest welcome to all distinguished guests. In her remark, she explained that it’s Palau’s first time hosting the forum, and she hoped for the dialogues to find innovative ways to revitalize traditional languages and sustain cultural heritage. Taiwanese ambassador Wallace Chow pointed out in his remark that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Taiwan and Palau’s diplomatic relation. It is also the first language revitalization forum held under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF). The forum is a platform for Taiwan to engage with Austronesian countries and further contribute to the field globally through sharing the abundant experiences in the revitalization of indigenous languages in Taiwan. American Ambassador Amy J. Hyatt stressed the intertwined nature of languages and culture. Languages indicate human knowledge throughout history and in various aspects. Generational tradition and cultural values shall be preserved through forums like this. The last opening remark was made by Director Tadataka Ikeda of Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association. He mentioned that this August, the then Foreign Minister Mr. Kono visited several Pacific Islands countries including Palau, which was the first visit of a Japanese foreign minister in 32 years. The forum is expected to facilitate academic exchanges between Japan and Austronesian countries.
In this forum, archaeologist Peter Bellwood from Australian National University opened the forum with the Origin and Spread of the Austronesian Speaking Peoples, combining theories on linguistics, genetics, and archaeology to argue that Taiwan is, in fact, the origin of the peoples and cultures of the Austronesian. Academician Paul Jen Kue Li of the Academia Sinica talked on Language Contact and Language Shift in Taiwan, illustrating the significant value of language with linguistic concepts, and describes the current usage of the Austronesian languages and endangered languages in Taiwan from the perspective of "language shift". Archaeologist Matthew Spriggs from Australian National University explains the source of Pacific Islanders by speaking on the genetic history of Pacific Islanders, and finally, Associate Research Fellow Kuo Fang Chung of the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica spoke on paper mulberry, an important resource of the Austronesian peoples, and proposed that Taiwan is the ancestral homeland of Pacific Paper Mulberry, the latter then spread with the migration of the Austronesian peoples, a symbiotic relationship proving indirectly the Out-of-Taiwan theory.
Furthermore, First Lady of Palau Madame Debbie Remengesau is all the more concerned about the work of language revitalization, see the increasing decline of Palauan-speaking youth population in Palau. Not only did she attend the opening ceremony in support of the work, she stayed throughout the entire forum. She stated that language is the root of culture as well as the key factor to forming ethnic identity. Therefore, she would like to establish a buddy system with Taiwan, by exchanging and sharing experiences, we can work to promote the teaching, learning and revitalization of language and culture for the young indigenous population between the two countries.
CIP Minister Icyang stated that this forum explores a diverse spectrum of perspectives, demonstrating the vibrancy and potential of researches for Austronesian languages. In the future, Taiwan will combine forces with various Austronesian countries, promote the use and preservation of Austronesian languages, improve the visibility of Austronesian languages in the international society, and in turn establish the sense of identity for the circle of Austronesian cultures.