It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Third International Conference on Tibetan Language. This conference, jointly organized by Columbia University, Shang Shung Institute, Tibetan Buddhist Research Center and Trace Foundation follows two previous conferences convened in 1987 and 1992 in India and Italy respectively. We are holding this conference in New York, a location that is, by all appearances, very far from the Tibetan Plateau. In Tibet we have a proverb that says “every valley has its own language,” but one could easily say that in New York every street has its own language. New York is, in fact, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. There could hardly be a more appropriate venue for an event that will address issues relevant to linguistic and cultural diversity than this city, where as many as 800 different languages are spoken. Twenty-four years have elapsed since the first conference was organized. Today, we find ourselves in a very different world, one where the global economy and the interaction of a wide range of factors are reducing diversity and eroding the long-term viability of minority languages. Tibetan language is not yet an endangered language, but, given the increasing speed of global development, if a rise in general awareness and coordinated action do not take place it will not be long before it passes that threshold. This conference has been organized in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect with the aim of ensuring equitable participation of the Tibetan linguistic minority in the world’s evolution. I hope that it will serve as a base for developing future initiatives and collaboration amongst all parties involved. I wish all of you good work and fruitful discussions.
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu