Mark Turin

Wall Scholar




Department of Anthropology





Geographic Location

Mark Turin

Mark Turin is an anthropologist, linguist and occasional radio presenter. His research and writing focus on language endangerment, documentation and revitalization; language policies and politics; orality, archives, digital tools and technology, and Indigenous methodologies and decolonial practice broadly conceived. For over twenty years, Dr. Turin’s regional focus has been the Himalayan region (particularly Nepal, northern India and Bhutan), and more recently, the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Turin has had the privilege of working in collaborative partnership with members of the Thangmi-speaking community of eastern Nepal and Darjeeling district in India since 1996, and since 2014 with members of the Heiltsuk First Nation through a Language Mobilization Partnership in which UBC is a founding member.

From 2014-2018, Dr. Turin served as Chair of the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program and from 2016-2018, as Acting Co-Director of the University’s new Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. He continues to hold an appointment as Visiting Associate Professor at the Yale School Forestry & Environmental Studies where he serves as co-investigator on a multiyear NASA-funded research project on urbanization and vulnerability in the Himalayan region. As a firm advocate of collaborative research, Dr. Turin is committed to widening public engagement with anthropology and linguistics. 

Primary Recipient Awards

Mark Turin – Wall Scholars – 2019

As a Wall Scholar, Dr. Turin will see one book project through to completion and embark on a new one. Both of these research projects coincide with the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, a welcome declaration that brings international visibility to the precarious state of the world’s linguistic diversity. The first book, contracted with the British Library Press, is a visually rich collection of 60 inspiring case studies that showcase success in language revitalization through the mobilization of collections held at the British Library and British Museum. The second is an emerging project provisionally entitled Relational Lexicography: New Frameworks for Community-Informed Dictionary Work. This project grows out of an understanding that every language has, needs, or wants a dictionary, but that every dictionary is different. Traditionally, dictionary making—known as lexicography—has been dominated by theories, practices and tools that emerged from the needs of large, global, colonizing languages in ways that do not adequately support the needs of dictionaries of the world’s under-resourced and Indigenous languages. Dr. Turin’s goal is to introduce a criticality and self-awareness into the field of dictionary-making in ways that disrupt the historical hegemony of world languages. Both of these research projects have particular significance here in British Columbia—the ancestral home of more than half of the Indigenous languages of Canada—and speak to UBC’s commitment to deeper and more equitable partnerships with local Indigenous communities to address the legacy of colonialism.

Mark Turin – Wall Solutions – 2019

The United Nations has proclaimed 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, but linguistic diversity remains under extreme stress. Today, communities who speak increasingly endangered languages are profoundly mobile, often out of necessity. Because languages move with people, language mapping is difficult, whether in print or digital form. Techniques that locate languages as dots on a map are flawed (where would you locate the dot for English?), while polygons don’t accurately represent plurilingual realities. A failure to understand linguistic diversity can manifest in unsuccessful public service delivery and civic engagement, particularly in marginalized communities. Embracing this challenge, the New York-based Endangered Language Alliance is producing popular printed maps of the world’s most linguistically diverse city. Municipal leadership in New York are using this knowledge to shape public policy. Our project will transform these maps into generalizable, interactive digital tools that support community-based language mapping anywhere in the world.

For more information on this project, see following links.
New York City Language Map
Mapping Urban Linguistic Diversity in New York City (September 2021)