This conference is called International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation: Strategies for Moving Ahead. I would like to address the pillars of the title, documentation and conservation, and examine some different models than are usually found in the literature on documentation, conservation, and revitalization that provide strategies, under appropriate circumstances, for moving ahead.
In early discussions of language documentation, the recording of language is generally the primary goal, with work with communities taking a secondary role. There has been increasing emphasis on community more recently, with language and linguistics continuing to be at the centre in discussions of this extended view of documentation. Communities are often interested in language conservation, with revitalization frequently part of a broader goal of community development, sustainability, and growth. Where the linguistic notion of documentation fits the community goals is not always clear. In this talk, I would like to describe two projects that I have been involved with that have such goals, and look at the role that linguistics plays.
One project, Ciimaan (‘canoe’ in Anishinaabemowin), is run out of the University of Toronto, and was designed as an urban learning community for participants to become bi-cultural navigators. Ciimaan provides an opportunity to develop transferable job and leadership skills while teaching, learning, and promoting Anishinaabemowin through culturally-based activities and community projects. What role might a linguist play in such a project that is motivated by goals of creating community? In early stages, the need for a linguistic understanding of the language was not central. As the group continued to develop teaching materials, they came to recognize that there were aspects of the grammar that needed to be understood by teachers and learners, and Ciimaan set out to develop a teaching grammar, building on Valentine’s Nishnaabemowin grammar. One linguistics graduate student who is doing research on Anishinaabemowin has examined topics that are not represented in the Anishinaabemowin literature, and much of this material is included in the teaching grammar. I have been a support in working on the grammar, helping to interpret Valentine and editing material for clarity and consistency. The program, while focused on language, did not engage the skills that a linguist has to offer at the start, but those skills have come to be regarded as critical to the overall conception of the project.
The second project, the Déline Knowledge Project, has been going on in Déline, Northwest Territories, Canada for some time. This project is broadly concerned with traditional knowledge and self government. Language is one important interest, and there has been extensive work done on recording, archiving, transcription of stories, as well as work with youth on valuing cultural knowledge, including language. As this a community-driven project has evolved, participants have become increasingly interested in developing dictionaries, in literacy, in language variation, and in other areas where linguists have a contribution to make, and have sought education in linguistics. This was not the starting point, but, as with Ciimaan, linguistics has come to be a critical piece of the work of rethinking community governance.
In these cases, language plays an essential role in ongoing work on efforts to strengthen the community. In both cases, the starting point has been community rather than language and language documentation. The role of linguistic work has emerged from other priorities, being one piece of a complex, with the linguist part of a team of academic and community researchers working together to move ahead, and contributions to language understanding often arising in rather indirect ways.
This paper discusses strategic issues in language 'management' (Spolsky 2009) and its complexity in relation to the maintenance of minority languages in contemporary Indonesia. Within Indonesia it is argued that language can be managed and that it should be managed as part of a national language policy framework (among other means). This is especially pertinent in the case of threatened minority languages. The discussion focuses on how categorizing an issue as either a ‘threat’ or an ‘opportunity’ has affected the priorities and the motivations in strategic decisions and implementations of (minority) language policies in Indonesia. These labels have symbolic and instrumental values, and both can be exploited to achieve positive outcomes for language survival. However, the complexity and uncertainty of the problems in dealing with minority languages and their speech communities call for a sophisticated interdisciplinary model of language management. The problems will be illustrated using Indonesian cases, showing how Categorization (Cognitive) Theory and Organizational Theory (Dutton and Jackson 1981) are useful for conceptualizing strategic issues by decision makers at different levels – individuals, families, traditional organizations (adat) , and government institutions.
The journey for the viability of an endangered language starts with very little but indeed it is key to unlocking a people unto themselves and empowers them to reenter a dominion for dynamic reform. But when to begin and how to begin are questions that can easily deter any effort combined with the goal of maintaining such a beginning with the purpose of attaining positive results.
As a co-founder of Hawai?i's first indigenous Hawaiian language immersion program, the ?Aha P?nana Leo, founded in 1983 and which opened its first preschools in 1984 and 1985, my talk will focus on those early beginnings in an effort to curb the extinction of the Hawaiian language. This was an independent endeavor started by a group of friends who were colleagues as young teachers of the Hawaiian language.
Prior to the actual decision to bring the language back into the ears and mouths of young children, countless hours were spent over several years in gatherings among ourselves as young adults, and in the presence of members of our parent and elder generations, bemoaning the rapid decline of our language. These informal gatherings at friend's homes would inevitably involve some kind of interchange about the value of our language and the importance of bringing it back to life. Among these friends were indigenous graduate students from New Zealand and Rapa Nui, where they shared the same concern for their languages. It was not always necessary to talk directly about the decline of our languages but we felt its import in every song, dance and story that we engaged in.
The name P?nana Leo or language nest was adopted from the New Zealand M?ori, K?hanga Reo, at a time when we had recently coined a Hawaiian word for native speaker, "m?naleo." The root of this new word is based on the feeding of baby birds in their nest as a mouthful (m?na) of food (?ai) is passed from the parent's mouth (p???) into the mouth of its young. Since it was the language or voice that was of concern in creating the new word for native speaker, the "?ai" or food was replaced with "leo" or voice thus producing the word "m?naleo" or mouthful of voice/language, fed into the ear.