On the occasion of the International Day of Mother Tongue (21 February), a Consultative Expert Meeting on Sign Language Endangerment convened within the context of UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages will be held tomorrow at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
The meeting is organized by UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector, the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies, the University of Central Lancashire in Preston (iSLanDS), UK and the Foundation of Endangered Languages (FEL), with participation of the World Federation of the Deaf.
Over the past years, UNESCO has been developing and expanding its “Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger” in collaboration with linguistic experts and the Foundation for Endangered Languages. The latest edition (2010) of the Atlas included more than 2,500 languages, and information is continuously being added to the online version. However, no sign languages have so far been included. Consequently, it has been decided to include information on sign languages as a feature of the next development phase of the World Atlas of Languages.
The Consultative Expert meeting will address issues in relation to the enrolment criteria, design and structure of the new World Atlas of Languages in terms of the inclusion of sign languages, and issues around accessibility of the Atlas as a whole for the deaf sign language users.
The initiatives of UNESCO on the promotion of multilingualism in cyberspace are undertaken by the Knowledge Societies Division of UNESCO, which is responsible for the realization of the concept of knowledge societies that are built on the key principles of inclusion, openness, diversity and pluralism. The Division also coordinates UNESCO’s overall contribution to the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) outcomes and is in charge of the implementation of UNESCO’s only normative instrument in this field - the “Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Access to Cyberspace” adopted by the General Conference in 2003.