Past Events

AmharicIntroduction to Arabic CalligraphyCode TalkersBeyond WordsBlack American Sign Language
Boogeymen, Spirits, and Specters: Stories of Fear, Wonder, and Haunting from BrazilChinese PoetryCherokeeEmerging American Language in 1812Family Language Learning
EsperantoFamily Language LearningLinguistic Society of America>People and Languages of the
Middle East
National Virtual Translation
Natural Language Processing Research at DARPAOral Literature and Performance in Ancient IsraelOral Traditions of QuechuaPostmonologualism and the Polyglot Urge
 Runes StarTalk Telegraph to the InternetWorld EnglishesWriting an Unwritten Language
YiddishMongolianHuman TraffickingDakota Prisoner of War LettersGrow Your Mind to Go Global
Presidential Foreign Language TriviaRosetta StoneLanguage in US National InterestsEvolution of Spanish Language EducationA Tale of Two Disciplines: Art, Science, and the Victorian Language of Food
Crypto-Linguists: Who they were, what they did, and why it mattersThe Prodigal Tongue: The love-hate relationship between American and British EnglishIndigenous Language Revitalization in North America: A View from the FieldEndangered Alphabets 

Endangered Alphabets and the Value of the Written Word

Endangered Alphabets Poster

Endangered languages, and more recently language revitalization, are now recognized and established fields, and the connection between a culture and its language is rightly seen as intimate and vital.
But what about endangered writing systems? There is no such field of study, yet at least 85% of the world’s scripts are close to extinction, especially those of indigenous, minority, and marginalized communities. And when a culture is compelled to abandon its traditional script, the entire written record of that people is lost, and with it their sense of history, value, and identity–their sense that they have a rightful place on the Earth.
Founded in 2010, the Endangered Alphabets Project advocates for such communities and for the cultural importance of writing in general, by publishing classroom material, by creating games, by

researching and maintaining the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets–and by turning these minority writing systems into art.

TIm Brookes, author and activist
Tim Brookes

About the presenter:

Born in England and educated at Oxford, artist/writer/scholar/woodworker/activist Tim Brookes is universally regarded as the pioneer and authority in the field of script loss and revitalization on a global scale. He is a frequent speaker/presenter at conferences on endangered languages and global communications. He is the founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project and the author of 16 books including Endangered Alphabets.

Indigenous Language Revitalization in North America: A View from the Field

T-Shirt with Indigenous Language Wishes

Presented: January 18, 2020

Dr. Craig Kopris has nearly three decades of training and experience in language description and endangered language revitalization, with a particular emphasis on Iroquoian languages. He has been a consultant with indigenous language activists and officials from several nations in the U.S. and Canada, teaches classes for the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute, and served as a linguist for Carnival Films’ Jamestown series.

The Prodigal Tongue: The love-hate relationship between American and British English

Lynne Murphy is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex. Born and raised in


New York State, she has lived in Brighton, England, since 2000. There she has acquired an English husband, an English daughter, and an alter ego: Lynneguist, author of the award-winning blog Separated by a Common Language. Her book, The Prodigal Tongue: the love–hate relationship between American and British English (Penguin 2018) is “a funny and rollicking read” (Economist Books of the Year). “Her love of our living, changing language is infectious” (The New Yorker.)

When faced with British English, Americans are apt to be impressed and are often made a bit insecure about their own linguistic abilities. When thinking about American English, Britons often express dismissiveness or fear. This has been going on for nearly 300 years, developing into a complex mythology of British–American linguistic relations.

This talk takes a humo(u)rful look into the current state of the “linguistic special relationship” between the two nationals. How did we get to the point that the BBC publishes headlines like “How Americanisms are killing the English language” while Americans tweet “Everything sounds better in a British accent”? We’ll look at how different the two national Englishes are (and why they’re not more different), why neither has claim to being older or better than the other, and why technology isn’t making us all speak or write the same English.

Who they were, what they did, and why it matters

Dr. David Hatch, NSA Historian


Saturday, September 29, 2018, 2:00 – 4:00 pm

Location: College Park City Council Chambers, 4500 Knox Road, College Park, MD, 20740

Dr. Hatch will describe how language work developed in support of signals intelligence activities in the 20th Century.  Much of modern intelligence work began with the Mexican border crisis early in the century, and language experts suddenly became essential to the production of vital secret information.  Language knowledge was vital to intelligence production in World War II and the Cold War.

Among those who transcribe or translate foreign communications for American intelligence, some with specialized knowledge or assignments are considered “cryptolinguists.” Dr. Hatch will explain this odd term and talk about how this specialty helps protect our country’s security.

About our speaker:

Dr. David Hatch earned his B.S. and M.S. at Indiana University, Bloomington, and his Ph.D. at American University in the District of Columbia.  He joined the National Security Agency in the antediluvian era, and has worked as a language officer, first-line supervisor, and Congressional liaison officer.

Dr. Hatch transferred to NSA’s Center for Cryptologic History in 1990, and has been the NSA Historian since 1993.  He is a frequent speaker on NSA and cryptologic history, and has written a number of classified and unclassified books and articles on these subjects.

A Tale of Two Disciplines: Art, Science, and the Victorian Language of Food

Dr. Bonnie Shishko (Queens University of Charlotte)

Beginning around 1850, there emerged in Victorian England what British chemist John Buckmaster, writing in 1874, called a “craze” for “educated” cookery. From newspaper columns to women’s magazines to public lectures, Victorian working- and middle-class readers were increasingly besieged by calls to strengthen their bodies, their bank accounts, and their families by learning the new-and-improved “scientific” methods of cookery. Cookbook writers, in turn, began designing a new language of culinary instruction that strove to deliver the perfect economically-efficient, “scientifically”-prepared dish.

Yet this “craze” was not without internal conflict and tension. Still other Victorian cookbook writers baulked at the notion of science-oriented cookery, arguing that culinary language should reveal to readers the “Art” and “Culture” rather than the chemistry of food.

Bio of Dr. Shishko:

Dr. Bonnie Shishko is Assistant Professor of English at Queens University of Charlotte. Her research and teaching focus on conceptions of the domestic in Victorian and contemporary literature and culture. Her current book project, “Epistemologies of the Kitchen: Art, Science, and the Recipe,” traces the formal evolution of the recipe in cookbooks and domestic fiction from the Victorian era to the present. Her article, “Culinary Ekphrasis: Writing Against Science in The Delights of Delicate Eating” will appear in a forthcoming edited collection on the avant-garde Victorian art critic Elizabeth Robins Pennell.

 Evolution of Spanish Language Education

Luis Javier Pentón Herrera, Ph.D. in Leadership: Reading, Language, and Literacy

On April 28th, 2018, the Amelia C. Murdoch Speaker Series hosted Dr. Luis Javier Pentón Herrera, speaking on the evolution of language education, in particular Spanish, in the United States. His speech was based on a doctoral dissertation, available here, which covers topics from the history of the education of the language to how this learning was perceived by Americans as a whole.

Pentón Herrera (2018) – Spanish Language Education

Language in US National Interests – Past, Present and Future

Glenn H. Nordin, Language and Area Learning Advocate, Retired civil servant and military officer

On December 9, 2017, the Amelia C. Murdoch Speaker Series hosted Glenn Nordin. He spoke on his six decades of experience in government language service and on the national interest in promoting the study of the world’s languages. Audience members learned about the development of national programs to educate and employ the linguists, interpreters, and translators on whom decision-makers rely for critical information and insight into language and culture. We hope that you learn as much as we did from listening to his presentation.

Glenn Nordin will share his observations of the nation’s world language programs and capabilities during the period 1950 to 2015 and will offer his thoughts on the future education of, training of and employment of human language specialists – translators, interpreters, language analysts and their managers serving the nation.

Glenn Nordin has had a long and distinguished career as a language specialist. He has applied his knowledge of Russian, German, and Vietnamese to serve the language needs of the United States through several decades. Major Nordin was one of the first translators assigned to the Washington – Moscow Hot Line. After a tour in Viet Nam, he served as Commandant of the Army Electronic Warfare School.

In a civil service career, Mr. Nordin served as a Principal Communications Analyst, account manager for the National Cryptologic Representative at Defense, Executive Secretary to the DCI Foreign Language Committee, Coordinator of the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) and co-founder of the ILR Translation and Interpretation Committee.

On 9-11-2001 he was an Assistant Director for Intelligence in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he held oversight of the Defense Foreign Language Program and later in 2003 served as a member of the Defense Language Transformation Team. His last government position was Principal Language and Area Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

The Mysterious Rosetta Stone: Cracking The Code to Problem-Solving

 Joel A. Freeman, Ph.D.

Saturday June 10, 2017 

Rosetta Stone replica

Found in 1799 on the west bank of the Nile by Napoleon’s French soldiers, this 1,700 pound fragment of an ancient slab gave up the clues that ultimately cracked the code to hieroglyphics some 23 years later in 1822 – unlocking the secrets of ancient Egypt.
Perhaps one of the most important finds in the past three centuries…yet hardly anyone knows about it.

Anyone interested in the fields of archaeology, Egyptology, cryptology, writing, publishing, geology, science, mathematics, translation work and/or languages understands the significance of this famous artifact — a contemporary metaphor for problem-solving.

Dr. Freeman spoke about the Freeman Institute’s development of a 5,000-sq.-ft. traveling exhibit about the dramatic history surrounding the Rosetta Stone, language/culture and problem solving –

Grow Your Mind to Go Global

Deborah Crimes

Deborah Crimes is founder of Lessons From Abroad, which provides world language programs to schools and organizations. She explains the origin of the book:

“This Fall, as I sat and listened to the speakers at the dedication to the African American museum, one speaker quoted Toni Morrison, “If there is a book that hasn’t been written, write it!” and that’s my “Why?” I realized there was a story to be told, an important story, so I wrote it with a few of my friends.

Grow Your Mind to Go Global is a career planning tool for young and old, but especially young people ages 16-25 to encourage them to color outside the lines when choosing a career field and to help them navigate preparing for and finding a job that will take them global.

So, how does this book do that… it tells the stories of many and how they used their world language abilities and/or their cultural competencies to think and GO Global with their careers. This book explores the what, when, and how to make a global career a part of a person’s reality.

As those who love languages and cultures, it is out responsibility to ensure that the love lives on in others. What will we do to ensure that young people take an interest in languages and cultures? What will we do to keep careers that utilize world languages alive? What will we do to ensure that young people are driven to those careers?”

About the Author

Deborah Crimes founded Lessons From Abroad, LLC in 2003. Deborah has a passion for two things: (1) teaching children–she has taught and tutored children in various subjects for the past 18 years, mostly on a volunteer basis, and (2) language and culture—she studied Spanish in high school, college and abroad in Sevilla, Spain and wishes to learn more languages in the near future. By combining these passions, Lessons From Abroad became a reality.

“Presidential Foreign Language Trivia”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Author and NML Vice President Gregory J. Nedved acknowledges the presence of books on presidential trivia. However, he does not know of any trivia book pertaining to presidents and their foreign language experiences and background. Being a professional Chinese-Mandarin linguist and with his past experience of having written a presidential trivia book, Nedved writes “Presidential Foreign Language Trivia” (published by Xlibris).

Presented in a trivia book format, Nedved’s book about the foreign language backgrounds and experiences of U.S. presidents is a first of its kind. “Seeing how past presidents dealt with language issues can be instructive in today’s debates,” the author notes.

Photos from this event follow.


“Human Trafficking—Modern Day Slavery”

Saturday, June 18, 2016  

Presenters:  Constance “Connie” Huntsman and Davina Ugochukwu of the Trinity Human Rights Group

The Trinity Human Rights Group is presenting an interactive seminar on Human Trafficking and the impact slave labor has on our daily lives, despite its hidden nature. Your presenters, members of the legal profession, will share how the horrific crime of human trafficking permeates the food and goods we buy, our government supply chains, our neighborhoods, and even our school systems.  You will have the opportunity to learn about landmark cases from the DC Metro area, as well as how to recognize red flag indicators of human trafficking and what safe action to take to assist a potential victim. Finally, your presenters will share information on how you can become involved in the cause.


President and Founder of the Trinity Human Rights Group, Constance “Connie” Huntsman, practices law in Washington, DC and has contracted with such entities as the US Federal Reserve Board. Her work to eradicate human trafficking has involved providing legal counsel on immigration cases for human trafficking victims and over 60 formal trainings and public speaking engagements, including appearances on television and radio.

Vice President and Founder of Trinity Human Rights Group, Davina Ugochukwu, has served in the area of international human rights for nearly a decade. During her legal career, she worked with the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as a Legal Officer Intern in the Appeals Chamber, as well as with the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Center’s International Strategic Litigation Unit.

“Translating Historic Documents Originally Written in a Native American Language: The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters”

This Speaker Event took place on Saturday, December 12, 2015 3-5 pm. . 

The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters—Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013) is a book-length, dual-language translation of fifty letters written in the endangered Dakota language by three dozen Dakota prisoners of war incarcerated at Fort McClellan, Davenport, Iowa, mostly on trumped-up charges of having killed non-combatants during the Dakota-US War of 1862, the first Great Plains Indian war.

This lecture will be about the translation process and the letters’ historical context. Among the questions addressed: why were the letters translated not into the Standard English spoken by non-Native readers, but into the idiomatic Dakota English spoken on reservations in North and South Dakota by the letter writers’ many surviving descendants, the primary audience for the book? Why did the traditional elders who translated the letters consider them not just secular historical documents, but sacred texts?

Author Bio

John Peacock
Dr. Peacock

John Hunt Peacock, Ph.D. (enrolled Spirit Lake Dakota), Professor of Native American Studies, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, was translation editor and wrote the introduction and afterword for The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters: Dakota Kasapi Okicize Wowapi, translated Clifford Canku and Michael Simon, which won a 2014 American Association for State and Local History “Leadership in History” Award.

Contemporary Mongolia’s Utilization of Language and Script for Political Purposes Dr. Alicia Campi

May 2015

The Mongolian language and original Uighur script, developed at the time of Chinggis Khan in the 13th century, are not well-known outside of Mongolian Studies, but their use for political purposes by the Mongolian, Chinese, and Russian governments during the last two centuries is a fascinating and at times tragic story. Historical and cultural disputes resulted in alternative Tibetan-influenced (Phagspa and soyombo) and then Stalin-era (cyrillic) scripts which reflected a larger struggle over the national identity of the Mongol-speaking peoples. Dr. Campi explained how such concerns continue today as independent Mongolia tries to connect with the globalized world.

Alicia Campi, Ph.D.
Alicia Campi, Ph.D.

Dr. Alicia Campi has been researching all aspects of Mongolian Studies, Northeast Asia, and Sino-U.S. relations for over 35 years. She has an A.B. from Smith College, a M.A. from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. In her 14 year diplomatic career with the U.S. government, she was posted in Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, UN Mission in NYC, and Ulaanbaatar. In the mid-1980s in Tokyo she conducted preliminary negotiations leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Mongolia. Presently, she is an adjunct professor at the Reischauer Center at SAIS/Johns Hopkins University teaching about Mongolia’s energy resources and integration into Northeast Asia and is a business consultant and writer for journals and on-line publications about the Sino-Mongolian region. Among her numerous publications is her book on The Impact of China and Russia on United States-Mongolian Political Relations in the Twentieth Century (2009).

Advancing the Scientific Study of Language: 90 Years of the Linguistic Society of America

Followed by the NML Annual Holiday Reception

lsarectangle copy

Saturday, December 6, 2014 – 3 pm – 5 pm at the City of College ParkCity Hall, 4500 Knox Rd, College Park, MD 20740 Free parking is available. NML staff at the door will provide parking passes. Download a printable flier 90 years ago this December, the Linguistic Society of America held its first Annual Meeting; since then, the LSA has worked to promote and develop the field of linguistics. In this talk, LSA Director of Communications Brice Russ will talk about the history of the LSA, what it does to promote linguistic findings to educators, policymakers, and the public, and how other organizations can use new media and tools to engage in language outreach. Brice will also discuss the LSA’s role in publishing linguistic research, the resources it provides to current and future linguists, and how anyone with an interest in language can get involved with the LSA.

Brice Russ
Brice Russ

Brice Russ is the Director of Communications for the Linguistic Society of America. As Director of Communications, Brice oversees the LSA’s efforts in non-member outreach, media relations, and political advocacy. Before joining the LSA, Brice served as the Public Relations Team Lead for Wolfram Research in Champaign, IL, and he currently volunteers as the Assistant Director for Yuri’s Night, a non-profit science outreach organization. Brice received his M.A. in linguistics from The Ohio State University, where his research focused on sociolinguistic approaches to studying language and social media, and earned his B.A. in linguistics from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Photo Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society,

Photo Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society



American Indian Codetalkers: A Linguistic and Cryptologic View

Steve Huffman, Ph.D.

 Much has been written about the story of the American Indian code talkers in WWI and WWII, but almost nowhere can one find out exactly how and why their codes worked. This talk will explain how those codes were constructed and how they actually functioned from a cryptologic and linguistic viewpoint, as well as dispelling a few common myths about code talking.

Dr. Steve Huffman has worked for the Department of Defense for over 30 years as a computational linguist, cryptologist, and computer scientist. He has extensively studied the use of American Indian code talking, and his professional background has given him a unique understanding of the reasons that code talking worked so well for American forces in WWII. He has spoken about Code Talkers at both the 2013 Cryptologic History Symposium and at the National Cryptologic Museum. He has been an Associate at the National Museum of Language for many years.

Esperanto:  One of the World’s Best Underutilized Ideas and Its Contributions to World Culture 200px-Jubilea_simbolo.svg

by James Ryan and Ralph Dumain

In 1887, an idealistic eye doctor (with a penchant for linguistics) in Warsaw named Ludovic Zamenhof unveiled to the world a project he had envisioned and worked on since boyhood: a new language, constructed from several existing tongues, with streamlined grammar and pronunciation – and implanted with what he called the “internal idea” that an easy, neutral, worldwide language could serve as a bridge between nations, cultures and people, and increase peace and understanding in the world.  Since then, despite wars, cynicism and competition from national languages with powerful resources, Esperanto has blossomed into a worldwide community boasting about two million speakers, a respectable body of original literature, and a sizable and growing Internet presence.  But because its novelty has long since worn off, too many people think of Esperanto as a noble but failed experiment from the past.  James Ryan will discuss this ingenious and successful language and movement – which are, in fact, bigger than ever – and how Esperanto has more to offer the world now than ever.

The concept of culture is discussed, as is the question of whether and in what sense the Esperanto community can be considered a culture, a question on which even the most celebrated Esperantist literati have differed. Ralph Dumain will emphasize the Esperanto phenomenon as a subculture and culture-forming process, with overall humanitarian contributions to world civilization, and artistic, mainly literary contributions, of both original works and translations. He will discuss the perspective and literary contributions of Esperanto’s creator Zamenhof in relation to the Esperanto movement and world situation of his time. He will give a general historical map of the development of Esperanto literature.

BIOGRAPHY: James Ryan taught himself Esperanto at age 13 when he heard about the idea and instead of just learning about it, went ahead and learned the language.  He has been active in the Esperanto movement ever since, serving as secretary and then president of the Esperanto Association of Los Angeles.  He has taught the language at his alma mater UCLA, at various seminars and conventions in Japan, and in the Washington, D.C. area.  In 1987 he participated in the centennial observances of Esperanto’s creation in Warsaw, Poland.  Since 1992 he has served as president of the Esperanto Society of Washington.  In 1995 he organized a group presentation on Esperanto at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and in 1998 he spoke at the British National Esperanto Congress in Chester, England.  In 2010 he was one of the principal planners and organizers of the U.S. Esperanto National Congress in Bethesda, which observed the centennial of the 1910 World Esperanto Congress in Washington, which was attended by the language’s creator Zamenhof himself.  Besides Esperanto, he speaks German, Spanish and Japanese.

Ralph Dumain is a librarian and independent researcher, now living in Washington, DC.  Dumain took up Esperanto in 1968, teaching himself, later taking a few courses at various levels, including a course with Esperanto’s most eminent then-living poet, William Auld. Dumain also participated in national Esperanto congresses, on some occasions participating in panels or giving talks. He played a leadership role in the Esperanto Society of Washington for several years. He was also the cofounder and journal editor of a specialized Esperanto organization for atheists and secular humanists. He has been interviewed on radio, most recently on National Public Radio in 2010.  He was also included in a video documentary about Esperanto. He has published original poems and essays and translations in several Esperanto periodicals, and has translated poetry, fiction, and essays both ways between English and Esperanto. In recent years, Dumain has lectured on the history of the Esperanto movement and on the Hungarian writer of satirical, utopian and dystopian fiction Sándor Szathmári, and has recorded podcasts on these themes.  He also has a website, The Autodidact Project, which publishes original bibliographies, research guides, and varied writings by Dumain himself, as well as a wide range of writings by others, famous, obscure, or forgotten, providing study material and perspective.

“Origins and Impact of STARTALK:  A National Program in Critical Language Education” – Dr. Laura K. Murray
March 8, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

Since 2006, STARTALK has provided learning opportunities in critical languages for students (K-16) and professional development for teachers of critical languages, primarily through summer programs. Currently, programs are being implemented in Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. STARTALK participation has grown to over 5,000 students and over 1,500 teachers per year as it continues its mission of offering creative and engaging summer experiences that exemplify best practices in language education and language teacher development. Since its inception, STARTALK has formed an extensive community of practice that seeks continuous improvement in such criteria as outcomes-driven program design, standards-based curriculum planning, learner-centered approaches, excellence in selection and development of materials, and meaningful assessment of outcomes.  This presentation provides an overview of how STARTALK has developed from a concept of summer language camps for students and teachers into a program with national impact in the field of foreign language education in less than 10 years.

Dr. Laura Kaplan Murray has been a career employee of the Department of Defense since 1985.  She has had diverse experiences in many facets of language, including operations, management, training, research, foreign affairs, and national-level language policy, and has served in various locations in the United States and overseas.  From 2006 to 2008 she served as the Director, Foreign Language Program Office (FLPO), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).  While at the ODNI, she launched the STARTALK program, which provides introductory language training for K-16 students, and teacher professional development, in 10 critical languages.  Dr. Murray was awarded a National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction in 2010 for her role in the creation of STARTALK.  Dr. Murray is currently the Technical Director, Center for Language and Area Studies, National Cryptologic School (NCS).  Her responsibilities include developing and implementing strategic initiatives on behalf of language and area studies training, and fostering effective collaboration between the NCS and the broader government language and area studies community.

Postmonolingualism and the Polyglot Urge: What It Means and What’s Left Behind

Michael Erard

Sunday April 21, 2013 – 2-4 pm – Presented by Michael Erard, Ph.D.

Sometimes it seems that learning another language — and sometimes several languages — is growing more visible, if not actually becoming more popular as a pursuit. In his book about hyperpolyglots, Babel No More, Dr. Erard explored the neuroscience behind language learning talent and language accumulation. In this talk, he explores the culture and politics that shapes the urge to change one’s brain, one’s self, and one’s status in the world through learning foreign languages even when one isn’t part of a local multilingual community.
Michael Erard is an author, linguist, and senior researcher at the
FrameWorks Institute. His second book, Babel No More: The Search for
the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners, was published in
2012, and is currently working on a third book about alphabet makers
in the modern world. He is also a member of the Museum’s Board of

The NML Board members who attended Michael Erard's talk
The NML Board members who attended Michael Erard’s talk

Introduction to Arabic Calligraphy


Sunday, March 3, 2013 – 2 – 4 pm – Presented by Abbas Mousavi, Ph.D.

Dr. Abbas Mousavi is an Iranian linguist who lives in the Washington, DC area. He is a native speaker of Persian-Farsi and earned his PhD in second language assessment from Griffith University, Australia. His passion for Arabic calligraphy goes back to his childhood when he was growing up in the city of Qom, Iran. He specializes in nineteenth century style of Thuluth calligraphy that is used in writing the Quranic chapters and the Hadiths. Largely inspired by the late master Hashim Mohammad Al-Baghdadi, Dr Mousavi’s style displays distinctive micrographic and symmetrical features.

Dr. Mousavi’s talk included a demonstration of some of the technical details involved in artistic calligraphy. He also exhibited some of his calligraphic artwork.

Oral Literature and Performance in Ancient Israel

Sunday February 3, 2013 2 P.M. – 4 P.M. Presented by Robert Miller

Robert Miller
Robert Miller

“Oral Tradition” is a phrase that sparks the imagination, and often what is meant by it is little more than imagination. What was literature really like in an oral society? And what is an “oral society” in any case, especially when the term is used for societies long after the rise of writing? This presentation explores the nature of orality and literacy in ancient Israel, the nature of its oral literature, and the ways in which this literature would have been performed and received. View excerpts of this presentation on our You Tube Channel

Robert Miller received his PhD in Near Eastern Studies from University of Michigan in 1998, and is currently Associate Professor of Old Testament at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Miller is the author of several publications on early Israel, most recently his book Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel (2011), which has been followed by several journal articles on oral performance in ancient Israel. Last year, Dr. Miller was elected to membership in the Folklore Fellows, an international scholarly network founded in Finland in 1908.

Natural Language Processing Research at DARPA

April 29, 2012 – 2-4 pm – Bonnie J. Dorr, DARPA

Bonnie Door
Bonnie Door

Bonnie Dorr spoke about natural language progressing research
and development programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA). Given the vast amount of information in multiple
languages and formats, it can be difficult to analyze and determine
what is important. Additionally, there is a need to be able to
communicate with local populations of foreign countries and non-English
speaking allies. To fulfill these language requirements, DARPA is
pursuing natural language processing research relying on diverse
performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance
knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies
that address current practical problems through applied research.


Dr. Bonnie J. Dorr joined DARPA as a program manager in 2011. Her
research interests are in the area of computational linguistics,
specifically machine translation, summarization, dialogue, and
semantically informed language understanding and generation. She is
also a professor in the Department of Computer Science and at the
Institute for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Maryland.
She is the former associate dean for the College of Computer,
Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and served for 15 years as
co-director of Maryland’s Computational Linguistics and Information
Processing Laboratory. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer
Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Quechua
Oral Tradition

March 25, 2012 2- 4 pm Regina Harrison

Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes

Regina Harrison presented selected texts of Quechua songs
and myths that document the earliest written sources at the time of the
Spanish invasion of the Andes as well as contemporary texts obtained
through field work among Quechua (Runa) peoples.   Quechua
narratives and lyrics reveal a continuity in their conceptual
structure, yet also display patterns of assimilation.  A complex
semantic parallelism (indicative of Quechua verbal aesthetics) persists
through the ages, enmeshed with themes of socio-political
testimony.  Illustrations and recordings supplement the


Regina Harrison
is Professor of Spanish and
Portuguese/Comparative Literature and Affiliate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland.  Her first book, Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes
(University of Texas Press, 1989; Spanish version, 1994), won awards
from the Modern Language Association and the Latin American Studies
Association.  Author of over 25 articles, she has published Entre el tronar épico y el llanto elegíaco: simbología indígena en la poesía ecuatoriana de los siglos XIX–XX. She produced and directed the video Cashing in on Culture: Indigenous Communities and Tourism (2002).   Mined to Death (2005), which
she directed and filmed, won the “Award of Merit in Film” from the Latin American Studies Association. Her current book-length study of Spanish-Quechua translation in the colonial period was funded by a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The “Virtual” in the National
Virtual Translation Center

February 26, 2012 2-4 pm Mary Okurowski

Virtualization is increasingly becoming a “new normal” as
businesses adopt new strategies to optimize technology and expand
networks of skilled workers. Since its establishment in 2003, the
National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC) has implemented a virtual
model in which a network of professional translators delivers
translations to a federal customer base. This presentation provides a
“case study” of the NVTC as an instance of a virtual entity and
highlights aspects of the translation government business and
translation processes that facilitate or impede virtualization.


Mary Ellen Okurowski is the Director of the
National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC) in Washington, D.C. During
her career in government service, Mary Ellen has conducted and managed
research initiatives in human language technology and in language as
the first USG Director at the University Center for Advanced Study of
Language. She earned M.A. Degrees from the University of Kansas in
Chinese Language and Literature and in Linguistics and a PhD in
Linguistics from Georgetown University.

Register here:

From the telegraph to the Internet:
How both governments and protesters exploit new communications

January 22, 2012, 2-4 pm – Presented by Irene Wu, Ph.D.

How do activists use communications technology? How do governments
influence communications?

While the Internet is still new, using technology to communicate is
not. Media are as old as cave paintings. However, the Internet and
mobile phones bring something new to politics. Protesters organize by
phone and Facebook. Online support groups give strength to those
suffering from discrimination. The Internet space is both a new public
square and a new private sphere.

New communications technology enables people to participate in a
broader array of networks and enables them to deepen and enrich their
relationships with people in these networks, more easily and cheaply.
The technology facilitates the rise of new communities, enables them to
build social capital, and increases the likelihood of collective
action. Today that technology may be social media, yesterday it was the
mobile phone, before that it was the television, the telegraph, and the

This lecture explores these ideas using historical examples from China,
India, Brazil, Canada and other countries to examine the political
communities enabled by networks of people, machines, ideas, and

Irene S. Wu is Consumer Research Advisor in the
Consumerand Government Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission
and is serving on the White House Task Force for Smart Disclosure.
Previously, she was Chief Data Office (Acting) in the International
Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where she guided
studies on international trends in regulatory policy on
telecommunications, Internet, and media. Dr. Wu also teaches at
Georgetown University. She is author of the book From Iron First to
Invisible Hand: the Uneven Path of Telecommunications Policy Reform in
China published by Stanford University Press. Dr. Wu received her B.A.
from Harvard University and Ph. International Relations from Johns
Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Boogeymen, Spirits, and Specters: Stories of Fear,
Wonder, and Haunting from Brazil

Sunday, October 23, 2011; 2 P.M. – 4 P.M.

Deborah Schindler

Learn about scary beings who come out at night, forest spirits who
punish unwary travelers and victims of spells, curses and

Brazilian language is an amalgam of characteristics from three major
cultural groups: Native American, European and African.  The oral
literature of Brazil has absorbed, blended and reprocessed these
influences into an incredibly varied body of myths, stories, fables and

This lecture explores different categories of scary stories from
Brazil. Few of the stories discussed have been translated
into and published in English. (Content may not be appropriate for
children.)View excerpts of this presentation on You Tube

Deborah Schindler studied Art and Latin American
Studies at U.C.L.A. and The Ohio State University. In 1982, she was
awarded the Araujo Castro scholarship for study in Brazil by the
Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. For the past 15 years, Ms.
Schindler has been active with the D.C.-Brasilia Chapter of Partners of
the Americas.  Until recently, Ms. Schindler taught public school
in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Peoples and
Languages of the Middle East

November 20, 2011; 2 P.M. – 4 P.M.

Michael Chyet

This lecture explores the peoples and languages of the Middle East.
The languages are: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian,
Neo-Aramaic. The peoples are: Arabs, Jews, Iranians & Afghans [who
are not Arabs], Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans. While
Iranians [formerly Persians] are primarily Muslims, they see themselves
as quite distinct from their Arab co-religionists. There are
Arabic-speaking Christians as well: Copts in Egypt, Maronites in
Lebanon, Syria and Israel/Palestine.

Michael L. Chyet, Ph.D. is a cataloger of Middle
Eastern languages at the Library of Congress. Formerly he was senior
editor of the Kurdish Service of the Voice of America and professor of
Kurdish at the University of Paris and at the Washington Kurdish
Institute. Dr. Chyet is also a trained folklorist, and focuses on
Middle Eastern folklore.


Black American Sign Language: The Sociohistorical

Sunday, May 15, 2011 at the National Museum of Language

This presentation is about the variety of American Sign Language
known as Black ASL and used by Black signers. The socio-historical
reality that made for the emergence of this variety were described
and examples of the linguistic features that characterize this variety
were discussed.

Dr. Ceil Lucas, Professor of Linguistics from Gallaudet
University. Dr.
Lucas’ research interests center around
the sociolinguistics of Deaf communities, including issues of
sociolinguistic variation within signed languages, issues of
bilingualism and language contact, language policy and planning, and
language attitudes. She is also interested in the structure of sign
language discourse. She is co-director of a project funded by the
National Science Foundation on sociolinguistic variation in American
Sign Language as well as another National Science Foundation funded
project on Black ASL (2007-2011).

Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, Associate Professor from Gallaudet
Dr. McCaskill’s research interests center around
multicultural issues in the Deaf community, and Black Deaf history
community, and culture. Dr. McCaskill is a recipient of the Thomas and
Julia Mayes Award 2005.  She also was selected as a Diversity
Fellow in the Provost Office in 2006.

Teaching African Languages in the U.S.: A View
from Howard University

African American Languages Presentation
African American Languages Presentation

Sunday, February 20, 2011, 2 – 4 pm.

Dr. James Davis, Chair and Professor for the Department of World

Languages and Culture- Howard University,  presents the challenges
and issues of teaching African languages in US educational
institutions.  He discusses Howard University’s African Languages
program and the role that it has played in US African language
instruction.  Some influences of African languages on other world
languages and cultures are exhibited.  Implications and
suggestions for future research are included. The presentation
concludes with East and West African cultural entertainment/learning

The Four Official Languages of Spain: An Overview of their

Saturday, March 5, 2011 Time: 10:30 am – 12:30 pm. Held
at the City of College Park Chambers

A panel of educators discusses the four languages of Spain: Basque,
Catalan, Galician (Gallego) and Castilian (Castellano), the people who
speak those languages, the regions in which they live, the cultures,
and the changing views within the country. The audience is invited to
ask questions, see video showing the beauty of the country, and taste
non-alcoholic Sangria. View excerpts of this presentation on You Tube

An Endangered Legacy: Indigenous Language Loss and
Revitalization in the United States

October 31, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.

Dr. Erin F. Haynes

The vast majority of the more than 300 languages that were spoken in
North America since time immemorial have either ceased to be spoken, or
are in imminent danger of being lost. However, many Native American
communities are making heroic efforts to save these languages,
preserving a cultural legacy that encodes the diversity of America’s
past, and hopefully, its future. In this talk, Dr. Haynes discussed
the reasons that so many of these languages are endangered, including
forced removal and destruction of communities, the infamous boarding
schools that Native American children were forced to attend in the 20th
century, and the trend in the United States towards monolingualism. She also discussed efforts that are currently underway to save America’s
Indigenous languages, including the remarkable stories of two languages
that have speakers again, despite being pronounced “dead” decades ago.

Emerging American Language in 1812


May 2, 2010

2 – 4 pm, Main exhibit hall, National Museum of Language, 7100
Baltimore Ave Suite 202., College Park, MD 20740. Join NML friends to
celebrate the opening of our new exhibit, funded in part by the
Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.  Orin
Hargraves, lexicographer, author, and expert in British and American
English differences, gave an overview of the exhibit at 2:30,
followed by a guided tour. Admission is free – no RSVP required.

Beyond Words: The Unlimited Potential of Visual

Presenters: Amy Carattini, Doctoral Student and
Dr. Gail Thakur, Sociocultural Anthropologist

The history of the Western Alphabet often begins with a discussion of cuneiform, clay tablets discovered about 5,000 years ago in the Mediterranean that document the pictographic elements upon which the alphabetic writing system has evolved. However, these pictorial forms were eventually abandoned in the West in favor of symbols connected to sound, thus eliminating the need for thousands of pictures to represent mental concepts in which to communicate ideas.

Severing written forms of linguistic communication from their
pictorial origins prematurely disengaged us from further developing a
visual language already in existence, diminishing the complexity
inherent in its form and discarding its linguistic relevance as a
language in its own right.

Despite this, the study of visual communication, through other
forms, is becoming increasingly salient. This is evidenced by the
proliferation of still and moving images in the media, on the street,
through the Internet, and on television. Furthermore, because
technological innovations occur rapidly and regularly, new and creative
forms of visual language are continually produced and readily dispersed
throughout the world.

We demonstrate how visual languages, aside from words, are composed
differently, such as comprising smaller units of analysis through
lines, forms, colors, depth, and dynamic movement. Yet, these elements,
while not the same as more conventional alphabetic systems, share some
important similarities, as well as significant differences, in their
communication potential.

This recognition is critical. As we argue, by taking advantage of
other specific forms of visual language that are available, and
utilizing them interactively with the written word, the reach and depth
of communication potential is broadened. This entails both thoughtful
selection of written and other visual forms, and careful arrangement,
or juxtaposition, of these. Especially in our increasingly
interconnected world, this collaboration between the written word and
other visual languages may most effectively achieve cross-cultural

Dr. Gail Thakur is a sociocultural anthropologist, who has been an
Adjunct Assistant Professor at UMD, and is presently at American
University. Her particular research interests are in identity,
belonging and its negotiation, and self-representation among
marginalized groups.

yiddish_cat_eccovInformal Language Learning In and Around DC: Families

Saturday May 16, 1 – 4 pm

Kaaren Agnez, &
Mashinke/Marcia Gruss Levinsohn, Jewish Educational Workshop, Talia
Kowitt, University of Maryland.

People who want to learn a language outside of traditional
classrooms can choose from a wide, sometimes confusing variety of
informal local and online resources for many languages. These resources
are also available for parents searching for the best methods and
environments for their children to acquire second language proficiency.
The key is knowing how to integrate language learning into everyday
life, leading to fluency. Techniques for individuals or families to use
cassettes, online resources, books, computer programs such as Rosetta
Stone, and private tutors or group classes are presented and evaluated.
Participants’ questions about their own and their
children’s interests and experiences in language learning were discussed. Mashinke
Gruss Levinsohn (bobe mashinke), read a favorite children’s book, The
Very Hungry Caterpillar, in Yiddish and showed how to help children
understand a new language through use of the five senses. Talia Kowitt
shared resources available in the International Digital Children’s

Paper, Rock, Bone, and Bronze–An Epigraphic Odyssey
with Dr. Edward D. Rockstein, L-3 Communications.

Sunday, April 19


Take this odyssey through the learning and experience processes
stemming from Rockstein’s interest in languages and, most particularly,
in the development and evolution of writing systems. His journey goes
from Latin, Greek, and Russian to the Korean Hangul alphabet and
Hancha -Chinese characters used in Korean, the development of the
Japanese kana syllabaries, to various Runic scripts with a side
journey into Ogham along the way.

Rockstein has had a life-long interest in the decipherment of
unknown scripts, in writing systems, and in the origins and evolution
of scripts. He stumbled into Norse Runic cryptography and pre-Columbian
American epigraphy “by accident.” This eventually led him to a long
correspondence with Barry Fell, the author of America B.C., Bronze Age
America, and editor of the Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, that
prompted him to look into the origins of the Turkic and Hungarian
runiform scripts. He eventually studied the Turkic and Hungarian
runiform scripts.

The story of the Turkic ‘runes’ begins in the early 1700’s when
inscriptions in an unknown script and language were found on the banks
of the Yenisei River in Siberia. They were deciphered with the aid of a
bilingual text with Chinese. Early in the 20th century F. Babinger was
preparing and editing a text of a 16th-century travel journal which
included a transcription of an inscription in “litterae incognitae.”
Vilhelm Thomsen later identified the script as the Hungarian Szekely
script and applied it to decipherment of the Turkic inscriptions from
Mongolia. Ed shared some of his experiences and insights while
“rambling among the Runes” in this presentation.

From Abyssinia to Addis Ababa: A Live Painting
Demonstration with Amharic Characters

Sunday, March 15

Solomon Asfaw

Solomon Asfaw Painting in Amharic

Born in Ethiopia, Solomon Asfaw graduated from the University School
of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa and has exhibited his work in
Africa, Europe, and the United States.

Solomon gave visitors the opportunity to explore an Ethiopic
writing system, the alpha-syllabary, through a live painting
presentation. He created an original art-work,
inspired by Amharic characters. Through this presentation, visitors
were also be encouraged to investigate the connection between Ge’ez, an
ancient Ethiopic language, and Amharic, the dominant language of
Ethiopia today.

Finally, this live painting  exposed Solomon’s unique perspective
as an Ethiopian artist whose interaction with the Amharic script since
childhood has become a catalyst for exploring his cultural and life
experiences and for seeing how they are transformed on canvas.

Persian Poetry and Calligraphy

Sunday February 22

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Director of The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute of Persian Studies, University of Maryland.

Persian Calligraphy
Persian Calligraphy

Persian poetry, which has developed over 1400 years, is beloved and
known by modern readers for the influence and achievements of poets
like Sa’di, Hafiz, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. The Persian language, which
uses the Arabic writing system, has spread across Central Asia from its
roots in Iran. The beauty of the form of the language as well as the
content were demonstrated by examples of Persian calligraphy.
Details were given of current and future efforts of the Roshan
Cultural Heritage Institute of Persian Studies to promote understanding
of Persian and Iranian language and culture. Reservations requested by
February 20.

Discourses in Dying Languages: My Story With Yiddish

Yiddish Text
Yiddish Text

Sunday January 25

Miriam Isaacs, Meyerhoff Center for Jewish
Studies, University of Maryland
See video on our You Tube site: Miriam Issacs

What is the place of Yiddish in the context of a globalizing world?
The role of Yiddish as a heritage language and its present uses by Jewish and non-Jewish speech communities around the world are considered, including Hasidim at one end of a cultural spectrum and European Christians at the other end. A theoretical description of the instruction of Yiddish and language competition with Hebrew and English were supplemented by a personal reflection on what it means to be a Yiddish speaker and Yiddish teacher in today’s world.

World Englishes

October 12 (Sunday)

Rebecca Oxford and Rashi Jain
Rebecca Oxford and Rashi Jain

Rebecca Oxford

University of Maryland. Discover the vast variety of ‘World
Englishes’; how English has spread around the world and how World
Englishes can be a two-edged sword, offering gifts and dangers. How do
power, oppression, imperialism, and resistance link to World Englishes?

See video here.




Lost In Translation: Collaborative Translation of
Chinese Poetry

Saturday November 8

Liang Huichun, University of Maryland, & Steven Schroeder,
Shenzhen University and the University of Chicago

A guided tour of two translation projects on which the speakers have
collaborated over the last several years: translation of Li Nan’s Small
and translation of poems included in Two Southwests, an anthology of 27
poets from the southwestern United States and southwest China. Liang
and Schroeder demonstrate how collaborative translation becomes a
conversation out of which a new work emerges. They understand that the
translation, inscribed in written form, will always be a new creative
work. Liang and Schroeder experiment with treating the poem as music by
reading simultaneously in Chinese and English, resulting in an
experience of musical improvisation, helping audiences understand what
a poem is about, and what we are about when we are making poetry.

Writing an Unwritten Language

by David Weber

See Presentations


By Carrie Clarady

See Presentations


Volunteering and Contributions

We are seeking volunteers to act as docents and to assist in other
capacities. Those in the Metropolitan Washington area who may be
interested in participating are asked to contact us.

The Museum has received a Community Services Grant from the City of
College Park in support of ongoing exhibits, and the Center for Heritage
Studies of the University of Maryland as well the Museum of the
Alphabet in Waxhaw, NC are also providing technical assistance and
funding. These contributions are greatly appreciated but there are many
expenses not covered by these grants. Members are encouraged to renew
their membership promptly, and if possible to renew at a higher level.
We encourage contributions in honor of or in memory of a
friend, mentor or loved one; major donations will be suitably