SIL International

Fredrick A. Boswell ( Executive Director)

SIL International ( originally: " Summer Institute of Linguistics ", German: " Linguistic Summer Institute " ) is a company incorporated in 1936, Christian, non-governmental scientific organization with the main objective to study mainly unknown languages ​​in terms of the development of linguistic science to develop and document to promote literacy and to provide assistance in the development of minority languages.

SIL is closely connected to the Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization that translates the Bible into minority languages. The organization claims to have over 7000 members in 60 countries. Its international headquarters is located in Singapore since 2008.

SIL provides through its " Ethnologue " since 1951, a database of the languages ​​of the world, documenting its linguistic research.

  • 8.1 SIL pages
  • 8.2 Criticism of SIL


SIL International goes back to a small study group of 1934 in Arkansas, near the missionaries led to fundamental linguistic and anthropological theories, and prepared her translation work. Was officially founded in 1936 by SIL linguist William Cameron Townsend ( 1896-1982 ), who worked among other things as a missionary in Guatemala. This activity Townsend recognized the importance of Bible translations into indigenous languages.

From the study group were 1942, the Wycliffe Bible Translators forth. They see themselves in the sense of John Wycliffe and Martin Luther as a national Bible translators for large population groups.

One of the most important personalities within the SIL International was Kenneth L. Pike (1912-2000), who was its president from 1942 to 1979. Since 2008, Fredrick A. Boswell Executive Director of SIL International.

From 1950 to 1987 SIL was housed in the University of Oklahoma in Norman. After a dispute about the missionary activities and the close relationship of SIL staff to military dictatorships in Latin America, the University of SIL broke. Its center has since been held in the University of Texas at Arlington.

Contribution to research

SILs main contribution to linguistic research is the dataset to 1000 minority languages ​​and endangered languages ​​, which were often previously not been studied scientifically. SIL endeavors to document both the empirical data and to their respective analyzes and thus to increase the knowledge about language.

This led to publications on languages ​​such as Hixkaryana and Pirahã, whose peculiarities presented some generalizations of linguistic theories in question. In addition, previously published over 20,000 technical publications, see SILs bibliography, the majority of which relates to the linguistic field work.

The focus of the SIL is not on the development of new linguistic theories. However, Kenneth Pike has developed Tagmemik ( no longer supported by SIL ) and the terms emic and etic embossed, which are now common in the social sciences.

Rather, SIL focuses primarily on literacy, especially in indigenous languages. SIL supports local, regional and national institutions, promote the teaching of dialects and dialects. These collaborations create the conditions for progress in education of multilingual and multicultural societies.

Furthermore SIL provides world teachers and teaching materials for linguistic exchange programs at major further education institutions available. Developed concepts, such as the LAMP method have also gained importance over the SIL addition.

Interesting results of the research are documented in the " International Cultural Museum " in Dallas (Texas ).

International Recognition

The SIL has consultative status with UNESCO and the United Nations. SIL is also represented in many countries as a non-governmental organization (NGO ). SILs work in many parts of Asia, was publicly honored by UNESCO.

Other awards:

  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding ( 1973)
  • UNESCO Award
  • International Reading Association Literacy Award for Literacy in Papua New Guinea (1979 )

Missionary activity

Are about SIL International, especially in connection with the work of SIL in Latin America, by various anthropologists, journalists and human rights groups, substantial allegations have been published. Pre- Bracht is that SIL International as evangelical mission organization the interests of international oil companies against the indigenous peoples through laws and their culture undermines. The Ecuadorian activist for the rights of the Indians, oil Full Krenkel, wrote in 1991: "What happens in Pastaza in Ecuador, is a typical process in the rain forests of Latin America. First, discover European or North American companies valuable natural resources on Indian land. After the Summer Institute of Linguistics stops at the Indio - local communities feeder, to undermine the culture of the indigenous people. Finally, roads are being built and the massive exploitation of resources and rapid colonization begins. The military is used to ensure that everything runs smoothly and opposition in the bud is stifled. " SIL denies these allegations.

Ethnologue and ISO 639-3

SIL International is the editor of the Ethnologue, a linguistic collective work, which aims to classify the languages ​​of the world uniform and cataloging. The first Ethnologue was published in 1951 by Richard Saunders Pittman and contained ten pages of information mimeographierten over 46 languages ​​and language families. With the fourth edition (1953 ) were first included hand-drawn maps. The fifth edition (1958 ) was the first, which appeared in book form. Since the 14th edition of the Ethnologue is freely accessible on the Internet.

With the publication of the 15th edition of the Ethnologue, in April 2005 the SIL code has been adapted to the at that time in development ISO/DIS-639-3-Standard the standard ISO 639. Thus arise for many languages ​​new, three-letter identifier. From this still resulted, that now also languages ​​that are already extinct, received a SIL code. Since then, SIL International is the official administrator of the ISO 639-3 codes for living languages ​​.

Some well-known SIL codes are listed here (in brackets valid until the 14th edition codes).

  • Gsg (GSG ) German Sign Language
  • Eng ( ENG) English
  • Out (HND ) Hindi
  • Cmn (CHN ) Mandarin Chinese
  • Nld (DUT ) Dutch
  • Swe (SWD ) Swedish
  • Scn ( SCN ) Sicilian
  • Spa ( SPN ) Spanish