OXFORD, U.K. (A.W.)—Armenian Studies at the University of Oxford (Faculty of the Oriental Studies), with the financial support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, held a conference on Jan. 21-23 that addressed multidimensional problems related to the vitality of Western Armenian as a language in the 21st century.
The conference, entitled “Western Armenian in the 21st Century,” brought together leading writers, intellectuals, experts, publishers, editors, and journalists from Armenia and the diaspora. The conference and workshops were conducted entirely in Western Armenian.
In an interview with Armenia’s Hayern Aysor newspaper, Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian, one of the main organizers of the conference, and a sociologist and associate member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, explained the key aspects of the gathering, which is the first to explore in detail the future of the language recently classified as “endangered” by UNESCO.
“There are many political and socio-economic realities and circumstances imposed, willingly or unwillingly, in the 21st century—especially in the diaspora—that have an impact on the prospects of Western Armenian; for instance, the situation in the Middle East. Beyond speaking and teaching the language, the future of Western Armenian is determined by its vitality, which among other factors requires an army of people who think, create, write, and publish in Western Armenian. The two-day workshop focused on these issues,” Tchilingirian explained.
A report of the findings of the conference and workshops will soon be published and distributed to the public for further discussions. The report will provide a summary of the discussions, the key problems, and some suggestions for solutions.
When asked about the next steps planned after the conference, Tchilingirian said that considering the substantial work that needs to be done, similar projects should be organized and continue. “We tried to be the catalyst for new thinking and new approach; it remains to be seen whether the leadership in Armenia and the diaspora would create a bridge of dialogue with the intellectuals, the ‘creators of substance,’ and extend the necessary opportunities and financial means in order to secure the vitality of Western Armenian in the 21st century,” he said.