Rising Voices: Lessons from Nepal and Canada in Collaborative Language Documentation and Revitalization Projects


This richly illustrated lecture focuses on several key collaborative partnerships in which I been involved over the last two decades, with members of historically marginalized, Indigenous communities, and increasingly with a committed global community of language learners, teachers and scholars in print, on air, and online. I will draw on long-term fieldwork in Nepal and India with speakers of Thangmi, a community whose language has long been effaced from the national record in the states where it is spoken, while also reflecting critically on my role in the Heiltsuk Language & Culture Mobilization Partnership through the University of British Columbia’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program where I now teach.

This presentation explores issues of orality and orthography, as well as identity and representation. I will focus on the responsibilities and challenges of long-term community-led collaborations, and reflect on new approaches to co-authorship and applied research.


Mark Turin is a linguist and anthropologist who spent many years studying issues of language and cultural practice across the Himalayan region. His work is informed by a background in ethnographic methods, anthropological theory and field linguistics. In addition to Nepal, where he has worked since 1992, his interest in the Himalayan region has taken him to Bhutan (where he is part of a 5-year collaborative research project to document the endangered oral traditions of the nation); the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, where he researched contemporary Nepali wage labour migrants; and also to Sikkim, where he directed the first modern linguistic survey of this small Indian state in partnership with the local government and a Sikkimese research institute. He had the opportunity to work in collaborative partnership with members of the Thangmi-speaking communities of eastern Nepal and Darjeeling district in India since 1996, and since 2014 with members of the Heiltsuk First Nation through a Híɫzaqv Language Mobilization Partnership in which UBC is a member.

Read more about his projects on https://anth.ubc.ca/faculty/mark-turin/.