SP20: Collaborative Approaches to the Challenges of Language Documentation and Conservation

Edited by Wilson de Lima Silva & Katherine J. Riestenberg


ISBN: 978-0-9973295-8-2

SP20 Full Volume

SP20 Front Matter

SP20 Cover


Introduction: Collaborative approaches to the challenges of language documentation and conservation
Wilson de Lima Silva & Katherine J. Riestenberg, pp. 1-5

Integrating collaboration into the classroom: Connecting community service learning to language documentation training
Kathryn Carreau, Melissa Dane, Kat Klassen, Joanne Mitchell, & Christopher Cox, pp. 6-19

As training in language documentation becomes part of the regular course offerings at many universities, there is a growing need to ensure that classroom discussions of documentary linguistic theory and best practices are balanced with the practical application of these skills and concepts. In this article, we consider Community Service Learning (CSL) in partnership with community-based organizations as one means of grounding language documentation training in realistic and collaborative practice. As a case study, we discuss a recent CSL project undertaken as a collaboration between the Yukon Native Language Centre and graduate students in an introductory course on language documentation at Carleton University. This collaboration focused on annotating legacy language lessons for several Indigenous languages of the Yukon Territory, Canada, using software tools to create a text-searchable, multimedia database for pedagogical applications. Drawing on the reflections of both community- and university-based collaborators, we discuss the design of this project, some of the challenges that needed to be addressed as the project progressed, and offer several recommendations for future initiatives to integrate CSL into language documentation training.

Indigenous Universities and Language Reclamation: Lessons in Balancing Linguistics, L2 Teaching, and Language Frameworks from Blue Quills University
Josh Holden, pp. 20-37

“Data is nice:” Theoretical and pedagogical implications of an Eastern Cherokee corpus
Benjamin Frey, pp. 38-53

This paper serves as a proof of concept for the usefulness of corpus creation in Cherokee language revitalization. It details the initial collection of a digital corpus of Cherokee/English texts and enumerates how corpus material can augment contemporary language revitalization efforts rather than simply preserving language for future analysis. By collecting and analyzing corpus material, we can quickly create new classroom materials and media products, and answer deeper theoretical linguistic questions. With a large enough corpus, we can even implement machine translation systems to facilitate the production of new texts. Although the vast majority of print material in Cherokee is in the Western dialect, this corpus has focused on Eastern texts. Expanding the dataset to include both dialects, however, will allow for comparison and facilitate generalizations about the Cherokee language as a whole. A corpus of Cherokee data can answer second language learners’ questions about the structure of the language and provide patterns for more effective, targeted learning of Cherokee. It can also provide teachers with ready access to accurate representations of the language produced by native speakers. By combining documentation and technology, we can leverage the power of databases to expedite and facilitate language revitalization.

The Kawaiwete pedagogical grammar: Linguistic theory, collaborative language documentation, and the production of pedagogical materials
Suzi Lima, pp. 54-72

This paper describes the intersection between linguistic theory and collaborative language documentation as a fundamental step in developing pedagogical materials for Indigenous communities. More specifically, we discuss the process of writing a mono-lingual pedagogical grammar of the Kawaiwete language (a Brazilian Indigenous language). This material was intended to motivate L1 speakers of Kawaiwete to think about language as researchers: by exploring linguistic datasets through the production and revision of hypotheses, testing predictions empirically and assessing the consistency of hypotheses through logical reasoning. By means of linguistic workshops in Kawaiwete communities, linguistic training of Indigenous researchers and production of pedagogical materials, we intended to motivate younger generations of Kawaiwete speakers to become researchers of their own language.

Supporting rich and meaningful interaction in language teaching for revitalization: Lessons from Macuiltianguis Zapotec
Katherine J. Riestenberg, pp. 73-88

Many language revitalization programs aimed at teaching Indigenous languages are small, informal efforts with limited time and resources. Even in communities that still have proficient speakers, students in revitalization programs often struggle to gain proficiency in the language. This paper offers an illustration of how one language revitalization program has tried to make teaching more effective by adapting communicative language teaching strategies to be more useful and appropriate for their particular context. Having gained empirical support in the field of second language acquisition (SLA), communicative language teaching emphasizes the importance of rich and meaningful interaction for language learning to take place. “Rich” refers to the availability of target-like input that is not oversimplified. “Meaningful” refers to the type of inter- action that takes place in real-life situations that necessitate communication. However, existing research on these topics has largely ignored language revitalization contexts, where providing learners with rich and meaningful interaction can be particularly challenging. This paper presents strategies for promoting rich and meaningful interaction in instructed language revitalization settings, as demonstrated through teacher practices at a Zapotec revitalization program in San Pablo Macuiltianguis, Oaxaca, Mexico. The focus is on shifting from Spanish language use to Zapotec language use in specific, everyday social spaces, then supporting interaction within these spaces.

The Online Terminology Forum for East Cree and Innu: A collaborative approach to multi-format terminology development
Laurel Anne Hasler, Marie-Odile Junker, Marguerite MacKenzie, Mimie Neacappo, & Delasie Torkornoo, pp. 89-106

For Indigenous languages to thrive, it is essential for speakers to be able to talk about their present reality in relevant and meaningful ways. In this paper, we report on our work in terminology development through workshops and the creation and use of modern digital tools including online dictionaries and terminology forums, and by working with speakers in the creation and ongoing discussion of new words. We describe the technology required to make this possible and the necessity of producing various formats, such as interactive images, booklets, and multimedia apps. We discuss the tools we have developed with and for East Cree and Innu speakers, translators, and linguists and the challenges of quality terminology creation, including context, clarity, dialectal variation, multiple submissions, and the specificity of the structure of Algonquian languages. We explain how videos can complement and support terminology development and diffusion and the importance of providing searchable, translated texts for models and context. We stress the importance of allowing oral, visual, and written submissions to interactive terminology databases. We also report on two Online Terminology Forum training workshops with Innu translators. We demonstrate the advantages of building a pan-Algonquian terminology database to combine, strengthen, and expand communities’ (re)vitalization efforts across thematic domains such as health, justice, environment, education, and technology.

Keeping Haida alive through film and drama
Frederick White, pp. 107-122

The Haida language, of the northwest coast of Canada and Southern Alaska, has been endangered for most of the 20th century. Historically, orthography has been a difficult issue for anyone studying the language, since no standardized orthography existed. In spite of the orthographical issues, current efforts in Canada at revitalizing Haida language and culture have culminated in the theatrical production of Sinxii’gangu, a traditional Haida story dramatized and performed completely in Haida. The most recent effort is Edge of the Knife, a film about a Haida man transforming into a gaagiid (wild man) as a result of losing a child. The story line addresses his restoration back into the community, and as a result, affords not just a resource for two Haida dialects, but also for history and culture. With regards to language, actors participated in two weeks of immersion to prepare and struggled through issues with Haida pronunciation during filming. Using the Haida language exclusively, not just in oral narratives (though there are some in the drama and the film) but in actual dialogue, provides learners with great context for developing strategies for pronunciation and conversation rather than only learning and hearing lexical items and short phrases. Capturing the storyline on film not only supports efforts at revitalization, but provides tangible documentation of both Canadian dialects of the Haida language.

A language vitality survey of Macuxi, Wapichana and English in Serra da Lua, Roraima (Brazil)
Vidhya Elango, Isabella Coutinho, & Suzi Lima, pp. 123-151

Serra da Lua is a multilingual region in the state of Roraima (Brazil) where Macuxi (Carib), Wapichana (Arawak), Brazilian Portuguese and Guyanese English are all spoken. Based on a self-reported language survey, we present an assessment of the vitality of the languages spoken in this region and the attitudes of the speakers towards these languages. While previous literature has reported the existence of English speakers in this region, the literature does not provide more details about domains of use or the attitudes towards the English language in contrast with Portuguese and the Indigenous languages. This paper helps to address this gap. In sum, the goals of this paper are twofold: first, in light of the results of the survey, to discuss the vitality of the Macuxi and Wapichana languages in the Serra da Lua communities according to the criteria set out by UNESCO’s “Nine Factors” for assessing language vitality; and second, to provide insight about the use of English in this region.