Kayla Begay and Cheryl Tuttle
Pacific Coast Dene Linguistics and Wailaki Language Revitalization
Wailaki, also known as Eel River Athabaskan/Dene, is a language of northwestern California historically spoken in villages along the majority of the Eel River drainage and its tributary the Van Duzen River as well as along the upper Mad River. Considered a dormant language, Wailaki language learners today are revitalizing the language from documentation and knowledge of close linguistic relatives within the Round Valley Unified School District, beginning in 2014. There are no known people alive today who grew up speaking Wailaki as a first language nor are there any extensive recordings, conditions that present unique challenges for both revitalization and linguistic analysis (Golla 2011:81). In this presentation, Begay and Tuttle show how comparative work between Wailaki and other California and Oregon Dene languages (Hupa, Kato, Mattole, and Tolowa) have informed both recent linguistic description and language use in the classroom and community, along with next steps in language revitalization.
How Do Historical Linguistics and Language Revitalization Inform Each Other? A Case Study from Unangam Tunuu (Aleut)
Drawing on her experience with Eskimo-Aleut (EA) and Unangam Tunuu (UT) in particular, in this paper Berge discusses how work on language documentation and revitalization can inform studies of a language’s history, and vice versa. As part of a project to create adult language learning materials, Berge had to describe UT morphosyntax in sufficient detail for language learners; in so doing, she discovered substantial heretofore unidentified differences between UT and Eskimo. Additionally, while investigating EA divergence in more detail, she discovered important gaps in documentation, including, for example, a lack of documentation regarding place naming strategies, despite excellent documentation of place names and community priorities for indigenous names. She thus shows how understanding one field results in a better understanding of the needs of the other field.
Using the Comparative Method and Historical Documentation to Help Build a Multimedia Dictionary with the Moré and Kuyubim
The Moré people of Bolivia speak a language of the Chapacuran family, and their neighbors on the Brazilian side of the border, the Kuyubim, once spoke a dialect of the same language that is no longer used today. This paper presents the first results of an ongoing project to use historical language materials, the comparative method and language documentation to develop a multimedia Moré-Kuyubim-Spanish-Portuguese dictionary. We discuss how the comparative method can be used to help revitalize and support languages in severe situations of decline. We also showcase the importance of cross-dialectal exchange when a language variety is no longer used, and provides a case study for how the historical record can be used to support community-based revitalization work and language materials development.
Mitchell Browne, Erich Round, Rachael Anderson, Thomas Bott, and Edith Kirlew
Comparative Reconstitution: Using and Automating the Historical-Comparative Method to Interpret Historical Language Sources
For many revitalization projects, the only existing language data comes from word lists recorded by linguistically-naïve transcribers, yet there is a lack of standardized methodology to interpret these sources. We draw upon previous iterations of linguistic ‘reconstitution’ (Broadbent 1957; Dench 1999; Browne 2016) which themselves have drawn upon the historical-comparative method in order to transform the language data into a modern (i.e. phonemic) format, useable by linguists and language workers. This paper aims to further refine the comparative reconstitution methodology by incorporating computer-assisted cognate alignment. This alignment takes identified orthographic ‘cognates’ as input and derives aligned correspondences. We tested our methodology on a collection of sources by linguistically-naïve English speakers recording Bunganditj (Pama-Nyungan, Australia: Blake 2003). Incorporating computational assistance dramatically reduces the duration of the reconstitution project, making it more suitable for revitalisation projects, while also increasing the accuracy of the results.
Jill Campbell, Larry Grant, and Pat Shaw
Dialect Identities: Reclamation and Evolution
Whereas speaker variation in multiple grammar domains can be a measure of the vibrant pulse of a healthy language, variation in the documentary record attributed to a group for whom there are no longer any first-language fluent speakers raises many questions. Characteristically people living in a still-vital context of oral traditions extending throughout a “dialect continuum” are very conscious of dialect difference markers. Dialect is integral to identity of place and of lineage. For current generations striving to re-claim their “language”, questions of dialect identity are fundamentally important. In the Salish case studied here, historical-comparative methodologies contribute significantly to interpreting documented variation in archival records in terms of the sound change patterns and directionality that define a major dialect distinction between Downriver hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Upriver Halkomelem. Probing the archival records further leads to a hypothesis of how certain phonological shifts interface with the morphosyntax to impact on word order change.
Christopher Cox and Bruce Starlight
Putting the Pieces Together: Cultural and Linguistic Knowledge, Linguistic Analysis, and Historical-Linguistic Comparison in Interpreting Historical Language Materials for Revitalization
This paper reflects on the processes by which multiple sources of information—personal linguistic and cultural knowledge, linguistic analysis, and historical-linguistic comparison—are brought to bear on the interpretation of historical language materials in the case of Tsuut’ina, a Dene language spoken by members of the Tsuut’ina Nation in southern Alberta. Concentrating on long-term work centered on two important collections of Tsuut’ina language resources from the early 20th century, Cox and Starlight discuss how these materials are being systematically revised for use in contemporary language programs, drawing on the understandings of contemporary Tsuut’ina Elders, analysis of Tsuut’ina morphology, and comparisons with other Dene languages to inform their development. Cox and Starlight consider how these different sources of information may both converge and diverge in this context, and how each may contribute uniquely to arriving at interpretations of these materials that are both true to their sources and of use to ongoing language revitalization.
Caroline Crouch and Kevin Schaefer
Oral-Historical Record-Keeping as Linguistic Practice
Historical comparison and reconstruction serve two main roles in the revitalization of Ninde (Oceanic, Vanuatu): recovering archaic elements of song and storytelling, and as a way of enhancing and guiding documentation. Historical comparison by multilingual individuals is part of an oral metalinguistic tradition, which, like song, is a record-keeping practice itself subject to loss. Specifically, the archaic forms produced in narrative-embedded song (called devils’ language) are dialogue attributed to kapat, or ancestor spirits. The comparative method offers a means to understand and document not only linguistic history, but the very practices that are not being transmitted to younger speakers.
Quirina Geary and Natasha Warner
Historical and Comparative Linguistics in the Mutsun Revitalization Project
We address the ways we have used comparative linguistics during revitalization of Mutsun (dormant since 1930), as well as ways that the revitalization process may be relevant to questions in historical linguistics. Because Mutsun has substantial documentation, the method of determining regular sound correspondences to construct vocabulary has not been relevant. However, comparative linguistics has helped fill in grammatical gaps. The more interesting question for this language is how revitalization impacts language change. All living languages change. If Mutsun had not become endangered and then dormant, it would still have changed since 1790. As revitalization proceeds, it will also change. Since the field of historical linguistics traditionally does not view adult second language learners as representing language change, there are few words in historical linguistics to describe language change in the process of revitalization. We will address some possible types of language change that could occur.
Hunter T. Lockwood, Monica Macaulay, and Daniel W. Hieber
New Words Needed: A Comparative Database for Algonquian Lexical Innovation
A common need among Algonquian language revitalization programs, especially those with no or few first-language speakers, is novel vocabulary. This paper describes a web-based, open-access comparative database of Algonquian derivational morphemes, now in its pilot phase. We have two main goals: to provide tribes with a source for novel word creation, and to provide a basis for reconstruction of Proto-Algonquian derivational morphology. Derivational morphology in Algonquian languages is famously complex; words are composed of ‘components’, which are divided into categories traditionally called ‘initial’, ‘medial’, and ‘final’ because of their placement relative to one another. The web interface will allow users to view the components along with their reconstructed forms. For language activists, the immediate benefit will be the ability to create neologisms as needed. Additionally, with knowledge of the sound changes their language has undergone, it will be possible to figure out what an unattested component would look like.
The Importance of Historical-Comparative Reconstruction in the Reclamation Process: Evidence from Reconstructing Wendat (Iroquoian)
The fidelity of written materials to spoken language (or, as it was spoken) is always a matter of degree, regardless of the age of the documentation. Applying historical-comparative methods to legacy documentation, especially in cases where there is no accompanying audio, allows for a more accurate record of the language, as it can provide crucial information in order to correct forms and complete paradigms. Furthermore, historical-comparative methods can provide valuable knowledge about the language and language community. This paper examines the process of reconstructing the Wendat language, a formerly dormant Iroquoian language, from 17th and 18th century manuscripts for the purposes of reclamation. In doing so, Lukaniec shows that the reconstruction process has significant implications for our understandings of the grammar and lexicon of this language, but also with respect to our knowledge of culture, historical periods (especially in terms of language contact and shift), and relationships among sister languages.
Building Bridges: The Value of Family Relations
The more we know about linguistic patterns and categories in general, the more quickly we can recognize them in a new language. In revitalization work, every wisp of documentation is precious. Sadly, there is rarely as much as we might wish for. Crucial information resides in extensive records of spontaneous speech, windows into how skilled speakers traditionally interacted in everyday life, what they chose to say to each other, and how they chose to say it, but unfortunately, technologies for recording such speech were unavailable in earlier times. If, however, there is richer documentation of related languages, and some understanding of innovations that have taken place in each language since they separated, we can discern patterns on the basis of less data in the target language. Examples will be drawn here from languages of the Iroquoian family of Northeastern North America and the Pomoan family of Northern California.
The two varieties of the original language of Los Angeles — Fernandeño, spoken in the San Fernando Valley, and Gabrielino/Tongva, spoken to the south into northern Orange County — were documented during the 19th and early 20th centuries by J. P. Harrington, C. Hart Merriam, A. L. Kroeber, and others, but have not been spoken by native speakers for 70 years or so. The documentation reveals that Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño has second position clitics, interrogative verbs, complex verbal morphology, both adjectives and adjectival verbs, and reduplication, but unfortunately includes no spoken audio, no texts, and no complex sentences, with far less vocabulary than needed for full communication. Work with the Gabrielino/Tongva Language Committee continues: figuring out grammar, mining for additional words in the documentation, creating new words following observed principles, discovering clues in the other better documented languages of the Takic branch of Uto-Aztecan — and yielding insights into comparative Uto-Aztecan phonology, morphology, and syntax.
Past Tense in Qkuan Kambuar: What to Reconstruct, and What to Teach?
Qkuan Kambuar is an endangered dialect of Barem (Papuan). While other dialects have distinct sets of markers for recent and remote past, QK has general past tense markers, derived historically from both paradigms. QK speakers view the verbal morphology as an emblematic feature of their dialect, but are often unsure of the appropriate conjugation, and occasionally use markers from outside the 'regular' paradigm. This can sometimes be attributed to borrowing, but in some cases the QK form is different from, but cognate with, other dialects. The residual use of these forms suggests that the collapse of the tense distinction may be a recent change related to language obsolescence, presenting a dilemma for revitalization efforts. Should teaching materials present a general past tense, an emblematic feature of QK? Or should they present a reconstructed system maintaining the tense distinction, as this might not have been lost were QK not critically endangered?
chuutsqa Layla Rorick
Nuu-chah-nulth Language Immersion Sets Informed by Fluent Speakers and Archival Documents
Fluent speakers of the Nuu-chah-nulth language are all elderly, representing less than 1.7% of the Nuu-chah-nulth population. In this presentation, chuutsqa, an adult language learner and doctoral candidate from the Hesquiaht First Nation, outlines how some Nuu-chah-nulth words and morphemes have been recently “re-membered” to an emerging language learning community through extension and development of Elders’ interaction with archival materials into language immersion sets. chuutsqa’s language revitalization work stems from an understanding that Indigenous knowledge lives on through ancestral teachings as they are lived, spoken, demonstrated, and deliberately shared. This presentation thus describes how mobilizing the teaching of disused terms through the delivery of language immersion sets supports the revitalization of Nuu-chah-nulth language, of which Hesquiaht is one dialect. chuutsqa’s work proposes that language scholars and activists can continue to learn and share in ancestral ways, thereby joining in an ancestral cycle of passing down knowledge through the generations.
Maintaining Dialectal Diversity in Bak’wa̱mk̕ala through Documentation, Pedagogy and Stewardship
This talk describes place-based learning of language and culture at the Gwa’sa̱la-‘Nakwaxda’xw Elementary School (Tsulquate Reserve, British Columbia). Following relocation and other colonial policies, several generations on the Reserve are reclaiming knowledge of their homelands and their language. This work responds to two community priorities: to transmit knowledge of Gwa’sa̱la and ‘Nakwaxda’xw ancestral territories to younger generations, and to ensure that Gwa’sa̱la and ‘Nakwaxda’xw children are learning to speak the appropriate dialect. The school is working with university-based researchers to document knowledge with Elders, develop multimedia classroom curricula and create a storage system for future generations to access. The strong connection between language and territory makes documentation of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) especially well-suited for research on dialect. We will describe how we draw on our research to develop innovative pedagogical approaches supporting dialect diversity, and share methodologies useful to others working in multi-dialectal contexts.
Jorge Rosés Labrada and Justin Spence
Community-Oriented Training in Historical-Comparative Linguistics for Language Revitalization
Historical-comparative linguistics relies primarily on two methodologies: philological and comparative. The former has been part of the Breath of Life model since its inception, the latter, however, has not. In this presentation, I focus on the importance of providing training on the comparative method (CM). The CM relies primarily on the identification of regular sound and grammar correspondences between related languages; this is crucial to fill gaps in the existing documentation of dormant languages. Additionally, understanding such correspondences may help language revitalization practitioners adapt resources created for related languages to their own language. Further, the CM can be extended to groups of languages that share areal traits but are not related. For instance, Ktunaxa does not have known relatives but shares with the better-studied Algonquian languages an obviation system. A comparison of these systems may allow the Ktunaxa people to adapt materials developed for Algonquian languages to teach their language.
Carson Viles and Jerome Viles
Nuu-da' Mv-ne' Digital Archive: Exploring Research Approaches and Speech Community Benefits From a Nuu-wee-ya' (Oregon Dene) Research Project
This talk builds on the Jerome and Carson Viles’s efforts to archive Nuu-wee-ya' (Oregon Dene) language materials into a digital archive called Nuu-da' Mv-ne' (ildarchive.org/nuuweeya), a platform which creates a digital space to share analysis and encourages cross-disciplinary work between language revitalization and linguistic analysis. The talk centers on conducting research that benefits both description of Nuu-wee-ya’ and the growth of the speech community. Situated within their roles as members of the speech community and as linguistic researchers, Carson and Jerome describe the development of Nuu-da' Mv-ne' as a case study in how academic research can operate as part of a feedback loop to support language revitalization and enhance further research.
Planning a New Houma Language
How does a community reclaim a language that was poorly documented before becoming extinct? This presentation looks at the case of Houma, a Western Muskogean language historically spoken in Southeastern Louisiana. With very limited data available on its structure and vocabulary, the modern Houma community have decided to plan a new language based on previous comparative linguistic work, using Choctaw as a structural base. The focus of this study is the application of the comparative method to determine the features of Houma and extrapolate how it may have sounded before its extinction. Another topic of this presentation includes the sociolinguistic dynamics of language planning in the Houma community, with respect to the role of language in their community identity, their learning of foundational linguistic concepts, and the decisions made as a community in the language planning process.