SIL (was: A project)
|From:||Roger Mills <romilly@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, September 15, 2001, 5:41|
Jesse Bangs wrote:
>>Eh, what's wrong with SIL? I had seriously thought of joining them after
>>I get my degree.
Some observations from my (as usual) antique point of view:
A. You had better be married, to a compatible linguist/SILer. All articles
produced/published are written by husband/wife teams. (Sweeping
generalization....:-) but true in my experience. I always found that
faintly amusing; I suppose it keeps one out of trouble...?)
B. You had better be a devout Christian, of the evangelical/proselytizing
school. And your goal should be to translate the Bible, or at least parts
of it. And you should be very committed for the long haul; my impression is
that these are not short-term, in-and-out type fieldworkers.
C. That's another thing (a plus, to me): you should enjoy, and be good at,
D. At least in the olden days, SIL was wedded to Kenneth Pike's Tagmemic
theory, resulting in a lot of their publications being incomprehensible to
present-day linguists. Too bad, but Chomsky won. To be fair, I've seen
fairly recent work that is more up-to-date, but still idiosyncratic. They
tend to be good at old-fashioned phonemics with a hint of generativism;
don't know about OT.
E. You had better believe in Lexicostatistics. They certainly do.
As you can see, I'm not their biggest fan. But there are serious scholars
among them, who have done ground-breaking work in many "obscure" and
otherwise neglected languages. In my Austronesian field, much of the data
in Philippine minor languages comes from SIL work; similarly, recent work
(since the 80s) in Central Sulawesi and eastern Indonesia-- I'm amazed the
Suharto regime ever let them in, but those were already Christianized areas,
so no harm done I suppose. I don't know how they've fared in the recent
But they do have an agenda.
At the time I was finishing up my degree, and job prospects looked bleak, I
asked a knowledgeable friend if it would be worth approaching SIL. Since I
failed on all points except C above (badly on B, and never mind A), he
suggested I shouldn't bother.