Language and the Preservation of Cultures: Thirteenth Century Castilian and the Bisu of Northern Thailand

By John W. Luton and Jose S. Gil.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This presentation discusses the challenges inherent in the process of lingual evolution, especially in the development of a cultural-linguistic approach to language development and its expression in written form. Beginning with examples of the work of the Jewish/Christian/Muslim translators/composers in the School of Toledo, during the 12th and 13th centuries, the discussion then focuses on the Bisu of northern Thailand.

Until recently, the Thai Bisu had no written language for preserving beliefs and practices. Representatives from Bisu villages formally requested help in writing down their language. Because of the similarities between Bisu and Thai, a team of international scholars and missionaries began utilizing the Thai alphabet to write down the words of the Bisu language. This work was greatly facilitated by enlisting the aid of Bisu tribal members who spoke Thai as well as their native Bisu.

Various aspects of the progress of the Bisu language and culture project, which has been going on since early 2000, will be highlighted. During this time, the team of scholars, along with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Wycliffe missionaries, have produced a Bisu language dictionary, written biblical and other literary texts in Bisu, and begun a literacy program to instruct the Bisu to read their language. Data obtained through ethnographic studies, which have employed a phenomenological approach to Bisu culture, will also be presented. All data relevant to Bisu beliefs and practices were obtained in situ in various Bisu villages by Yongsheng Zhao, Wenxue Yang, and Bibo Bai, who worked in cooperation with Professor Kirk Person of Payap University (Chiangmai, Thailand).

Keywords: Bisu, Culture, Preservation, Oral Society, Written Language, Oral History, Toledo, Translation, Transliteration

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.395-402. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 623.897KB).

Dr. John W. Luton

Associate Professor - Mass Communication, Department of Language, Literature & Communication, Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, USA

Dr. John W. Luton Associate Professor of Mass Communication, and Chairperson Department of Language, Literature and Communication, School of Arts and Humanities. Elizabeth City State University United States of America From as early as he can remember, John Luton has possessed a profound interest in language, communication and culture. After completing his bachelor's and master's degrees at Baltimore Hebrew University and St. Mary's Seminary, respectively, Luton earned a Ph.D. in Communication Studies at Regent University. His specialization is intercultural communication. He is particularly interested in the effects of religious orientation on communication dynamics. Since January 2001, Dr Luton has served as Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Elizabeth City State University, a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina. He also serves as Bisu People Group Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship which, along with Wycliffe Bible Translators, sponsors literary and cultural preservation work among the Bisu of Thailand.

Dr. Jose S. Gil

Professor of Foreign Languages, Department of Language, Literature & Communication, Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, USA

Dr. José S. Gil presently serves as professor of foreign languages at Elizabeth City State University. A native of Spain, Dr. Gil has been widely recognized for his work in international languages and linguistics. He is a specialist in Iberian languages and literatures and has written extensively about the Jewish Translators and their translations in the School of Toledo during the 12th and 13th centuries. Currently, he is engaged in the research through "relatos" and codices relative to the first encounters of the Spanish in the eastern United States, before the arrival of the English. Prior to his current position, Dr. Gil has served as dean of Arts and Sciences for two universities in the U.S. As colleagues in the Department of Language, Literature & Communication at Elizabeth City State University, Drs. Gil and Luton are developing plans for a modern language and cultural center, which will house a media and instructional laboratory. The focus of this new center will be to integrate the best of online and onsite teaching methods and resources to promote the study of both strategic and endangered languages.


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