The Summer Institute of Linguistics at UND, a program that has provided training in linguistics, the preservation of minority languages and related fields since 1952, has ended.
Decreasing enrollment, increasing costs and shifts in UND priorities were cited as factors that led to the decision to end the cooperative program, operated as a partnership between UND and the Summer Institute of Linguistics International organization.
UND and SIL leaders jointly agreed earlier this year to phase out the program which drew teachers from around the world, including locations in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, said Steve Marlett, a faculty member and former director of the program.
Students, who also come from various areas of the world, represent a range of interests related to linguistics, he said.
Faculty and students “could be working any place in the world,” he said, conducting field work in places such as the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, New Guinea and Africa, under the auspices of SIL International.
“SIL has very much appreciated UND’s support of the program through the years and the opportunity to participate in the academic life of this vibrant campus,” Albert Bickford, director of the program, said in a released statement. “We regret the end of this collaborative effort but are grateful for how much our students have benefited from it.”
This year about 150 students and teachers participated in the SIL program at UND, which held its final class session on Friday, Aug. 2.
“It’s kind of an emotional time for many of us, thinking it’s the last one,” Marlett said. “But it’s good.”
Years ago, as a 22-year-old college grad, Marlett came to UND where his interest in linguistics flourished, propelling him to pursue graduate degrees in that subject area. He also met his wife-to-be, Cathy Moser, here.
“It’s been a big part of our lives,” he said. “This is my children’s summer home.”
The intensive, nine-week SIL program, administered by the UND College of Arts and Sciences, has offered undergraduate and graduate courses for thousands of students interested in the study and preservation of minority languages.
Under the program, the first master’s degree in linguistics was conferred by UND in 1959; the student’s graduate thesis was about the Dakota language.
Many of the program’s students have gone on to conduct research and development projects in lesser-studied language communities around the world.
Those involved with the program “study languages that have never been studied before; they are the languages of often overlooked, neglected and underserved groups,” Marlett said.
“It’s the first time their language has been recorded or written down,” he said. “It’s their language, not the language of conquerors, like Spanish.”
In recent years, various faculty members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics at UND have been involved in sign language research and language development projects in several areas of the world, Marlett said.
“The program at UND has been exceptionally proactive in combining signed and spoken language research, drawing students with a special interest in this area of applied linguistics,” he said.
Each summer, the program has hosted renowned linguists during a week of special lectures, he said.
Faculty member Mark Karan, representing SIL International and UND, presented his research at an international conference last month in Russia, as one of 150 invited experts from 70 countries, representing all continents.
Other faculty members have been contributing in the past year to linguistics programs at universities in Peru, Spain and Mexico, Marlett said.
Over the institute’s 68 summers at UND, more than 165 theses, on languages spoken in numerous countries, have been completed, he said.
Faculty members are working to help remaining graduate students complete their master’s degrees in the near future.
The SIL International programs will continue in other locations, including Texas, British Columbia, Peru, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom, Marlett said.