A Threefold Purpose
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A Threefold Purpose

Rediscovering the Heart of SIL

About the Book

When the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) was established in 1934, its founder, William Cameron Townsend, articulated a threefold purpose which wove together the strands of scholarly research, Bible translation, and integral development in service of language communities on the margins of society. When he launched the Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1942 as a branding strategy for supporting the work of SIL through fund raising and recruiting among churches in the United States, the strand of Bible translation is what received the focus. That strategy has been so successful that 80 years later SIL has engaged with thousands of language communities around the world. But it is Wycliffe which is widely known within the Christian public. SIL lies in its shadow, virtually unknown to that public.  Obscured in the shadows, as well, are the strands of scholarly research and integral development. 

The aim of this book is to help the public rediscover the heart of SIL by examining those less familiar strands of the threefold purpose, especially the strand of scholarly research. The book is a collection of essays by three scholars who are long-time members of SIL—Gary F. Simons, Frederick A. (Boone) Aldridge, and M. Paul Lewis:

  • Chapter 1 by Simons introduces the threefold purpose of SIL as originally articulated by its founder and explains how the three strands form a unity of purpose which can be summarized as: “Extending the bounds of knowledge so that language communities on the margins may flourish.”

The remaining chapters touch on the three purposes in the order Townsend originally laid them out: research, translation, development.

  • Chapter 2 by Aldridge is about the early history of the “linguistic approach” (which was the founder’s way of naming the research strand of the threefold purpose).
  • Chapter 3 by Simons examines the scholarly legacy of Kenneth Pike as he led SIL in the call to academic community.
  • Chapter 4 by Aldridge looks at the Bible translation strand and sketches the early history of how scholarship has contributed to better practice through the the development of better theory and strategy.
  • Chapter 5 by Lewis considers the development strand, looking specifically at what we can learn about holistic service from the example of Townsend’s early work in the community of Tetelcingo. 

This book has its genesis in the efforts to found the Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship. The Pike Center is an initiative supported by the Kenneth Pike Endowment for Integrative Scholarship. While we are pleased to share this book free of charge as a way of spreading the word about our cause, we also invite you to consider making a donation to the cause by paying for the book. All of the publisher earnings are directed to the Pike Endowment fund to support activities of the Pike Center. You may also make an online donation by following the above link to the Endowment web page. A donation made there will allow you to receive a tax-deductible receipt.

About the Editor

Gary F. Simons
Edited by Gary F. Simons

Gary F. Simons is the Chief Research Officer for SIL International (Dallas, TX) and Executive Editor of the Ethnologue (http://www.ethnologue.com/). He is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (Dallas, TX). Early in his career he was involved in language development activities in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.  More recently he has contributed to the development of cyberinfrastructure for linguistics as co-founder of the Open Language Archives Community (http://www.language-archives.org/) and co-developer of the ISO 639-3 standard of three-letter identifiers for all known languages of the world (http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/). He holds a PhD in general linguistics (with minor emphases in computer science and classics) from Cornell University. He is an author or editor of over 100 publications (http://www.sil.org/~simonsg/).

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • About the Authors
  • 1. Extending the Boundaries of Knowledge and the Threefold Purpose of SIL
    • What is Scholarship?
    • The Threefold Purpose of SIL
    • Scholarship That Is Integrated with God and Neighbor
    • The Unity of the SIL Ends
    • The Research Mission of SIL
    • Integrative scholarship: SIL’s Blue Ocean Strategy
    • References
  • 2. The Summer Institute of Linguistics and the ‘Linguistic Approach’
    • The Religious Background
    • SIL in the Making
    • Growing Pains
    • SIL as a Scholarly Institution
    • With Heart and Mind?
    • Conclusion
    • References
  • 3. The Call to Academic Community
    • Ken Pike: Christian and Scholar
    • SIL Distinctives: Bible Translation and Science
    • Science: Cornerstone or Stumbling Block?
    • Acting in Community: The Essence of Science
    • OLAC: An Emerging Community
    • Conclusion: The Call to Academic Community
    • References
  • 4. Theory and Strategy of Bible Translation in SIL: The First Fifty Years
    • Historical Background
    • Translation Troubles
    • The Beekman Revolution
    • The SIL and ABS Debate
    • Examining the Bible Translation Strategy
    • Conclusion
    • References
  • 5. Back to Tetelcingo: Rediscovering SIL’s Roots in Holistic Service
    • The Tetelcingo Experiment
    • Distilling the Foundational Principles of the Tetelcingo Experiment
    • On to Tetelcingo
    • References
  • Appendix 1: Original SIL Letterhead
  • Appendix 2: Letter from Townsend to Ambassador Daniels
  • Notes

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Pike Center

Pike Center for Integrative Scholarship is an initiative of SIL International that builds capacity for language development through scholarship. SIL works alongside ethnolinguistic communities as they discover how language development addresses the challenging areas of their daily lives—social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual.

One of Pike Center’s strategies for building capacity is to grow the needed bodies of knowledge through its Agile Publishing program. We are using this lean publishing platform to give our affiliated scholars a platform for developing and refining new contributions to growing bodies of knowledge that support the language development movement. Many of our titles are still in a preliminary stage of development. Others are finished but have such a narrow audience that we have not elected to turn them into print books. Still others have reached the maturity of becoming a print book; in such cases, this is indicated by a link on the landing page for the book.

All of the revenues generated through sales on this site are directed to the Pike Center to support the on-going research activities of its affiliated scholars. Naming a higher price when you purchase one of our books is a way of contributing to this cause. Or you may go to the Pike Center website to make a donation that will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

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