Using TEI for an Endangered Language Lexical Resource: The Nxaʔamxcín Database-Dictionary Project
This paper describes the evolution of a lexical resource project for Nxaʔamxcín, an endangered Salish language, from the project’s inception in the 1990s, based on legacy materials recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, to its current form as an online database that is transformable into various print and web-based formats for varying uses. We illustrate how we are using TEI P5 for data-encoding and archiving and show that TEI is a mature, reliable, flexible standard which is a valuable tool for lexical and morphological markup and for the production of lexical resources. Lexical resource creation, as is the case with language documentation and description more generally, benefits from portability and thus from conformance to standards (Bird and Simons 2003, Thieberger 2011). This paper therefore also discusses standards-harmonization, focusing on our attempt to achieve interoperability in format and terminology between our database and standards proposed for LMF, RELISH and GOLD. We show that, while it is possible to achieve interoperability, ultimately it is difficult to do so convincingly, thus raising questions about what conformance to standards means in practice.
This paper highlights the role of speech community members on a series of interconnected projects to document, study and maintain Kokama, a deeply endangered language from the Peruvian Amazon. The remaining fluent speakers of the language are mostly older than 60 years of age, are spread out across various small villages, and speak the language in very restricted situations. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, it demonstrates with concrete examples that outcomes of projects implemented in collaboration with speakers yield more broadly useful outcomes than those conducted by a linguist working alone. Second, it underscores the significance of documenting language interaction among different types of speakers in accordance with the view that language preservation is not only about promoting a linguistic code, but also includes documenting communicative practices. The projects reported here can contribute to the development of fieldwork methodologies to work with a range of speakers. The involvement of community members has been crucial for the design of culturally relevant strategies to assess fluency in Kokama, for the naturalness and variety within the collected data, and for the documentation of interactional patterns essential for revitalization initiatives. This paper supports the view that language documentation, language preservation, and linguistic research can be complementary endeavors.
More than Words: Towards a Development-Based Approach to Language Revitalization
Existing models for language revitalization focus almost exclusively on language learning and use. While recognizing the value of these models, we argue that their effective application is largely limited to situations in which languages have low numbers of speakers. For languages that are rapidly undergoing language shift, but which still maintain large vital communities of speakers, a model for revitalization is currently lacking. We offer the beginnings of such a model here, arguing that in these communities doing language revitalization must primarily mean addressing the causes of language shift, a task that we argue can be undertaken in collaborative efforts with social development organizations. The model contrasts strongly (though complementarily) with existing models in that it focuses on work in which explicitly language-focused activities are undertaken only as intentional support for social development projects. Where successful, we argue this approach achieves language revitalization goals in organic and sustainable ways that are much more difficult for language-focused programs to achieve. It therefore has the potential to stop and potentially reverse language shift in specific ways. We offer our experiences with Wuqu’ Kawoq|Maya Health Alliance, a healthcare NGO in Guatemala, which attempts to follow this model, as evidence for the model’s viability.
Using Gesture to Teach Seneca in a Language Nest School
Seneca elder Sandy Dowdy and her granddaughter Autumn Crouse direct a language nest school for children aged two to five years in a small longhouse-shaped building, Ganöhsesge:kha:’ Hë:nödeyë:sta’:, or the FaithKeepers School, on the Seneca Allegany Territory in upstate New York. They practice immersion teaching and use forms of gesturing to teach the children both conversational and spiritual functions of Seneca, capitalizing on the belief that the use of gesturing is an effective tool for teaching children, especially those in the toddler range. Gesturing is useful because language and gesture are positively linked, signing links concepts to verbal learning, gesture helps aid memory, and incorporating gesture while learning a language encourages active learning. Gesturing also helps children learn complex concepts, which is ideal for teaching Seneca since the children are learning the Ganö:nyök, literally, ‘let it be used for expressing thanks’ and otherwise known as the Thanksgiving Address, a daily recitation that expresses thankfulness for all of creation.