1998 Language Legacies Projects
Daniel Aberra Addis Ababa University
Morphological Analysis of Shabo
The Shabo language of Ethiopia (also called Shaqqo or Mekeyir) is puzzling to linguists because it is distinct from both the Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan families, the only two language families in Ethiopia. Even more remote families in Africa do not offer an obvious relationship. Daniel Aberra, of Addis Ababa University, has received a grant to do the necessary work to make the relationship of this language clear. The number of speakers is dwindling rapidly, and there is a large degree of language shift to one of the more prestigious neighboring languages, Majang or Shakicho (Mocha).
Ronald Geronimo Sells, AZ
Illustration of a Tohono O'odham Text for Children
The foot race has a time-honored position in Tohono O'odham culture, and Ronald Geronimo of the University of Arizona is planning to use it as a basis for a story in his native language. The text is intended for young readers, though it is hoped that older O'odham speakers will find it of interest as well. The final work will include not only the written version of the story, but specially designed illustrations. A cassette recording will also accompany the text, and will additionally include a small set of songs that were used by traditional foot racers from various O'odham villages. Geronimo hopes that this work will help stop the deterioration of the O'odham language by appealing to young readers and other members of their family.
Darrell R. Kipp Piegan Institute
Immersion Learning of Blackfoot
Darrell R. Kipp - Immersion Learning of Blackfoot The Piegan Institute, headed by Darrell Kipp, began building a school immersion program for Blackfoot in 1994. Since that time, two schools have been in operation, hosting forty children from pre-school through grade four. While the school buildings are functioning nicely, there is a lack of language material for the children and teachers to work with. With assistance from the Endangered Language Fund, Kipp plans to produce such material with the help not only of elders who grew up with the language but also from teachers who have become quite fluent in it. This community effort is beginning to bear fruit, with interest in the language increasing throughout the tribe.
Monica Macaulay University of Wisconsin
Menominee Language and Linguistics
Of more than 7,000 enrolled members of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, only 36 claim the ancestral language as their mother tongue, and a small group list it as their second language. In 1997, the Memoninee Legislature passed a bill requiring the use of Menominee for tribal purposes when possible and the teaching of the language on the reservation. Unfortunately, despite Leonard Bloomfield's major work on the language half a century ago, very little has been done since and so there is much that needs to be known for a practical language teaching program to be developed. Monica Macaulay of the University of Wisconsin has been asked to work with the Tribal College in developing these materials, and will use the grant from the Fund to do the necessary work with the remaining fluent speakers. The goal is a computerized language learning system that will be effective is retaining Menominee for the use of its community.
Eve Chuen Ng State University of New York, Buffalo
The Structure of Passamaquoddy
Passamaquoddy is an Eastern Algonquian language of northeastern Maine, with a closely related dialect, Maliseet, spoken in New Brunswick. Almost every speaker is over the age of 40, and those who are considered by their communities to be truly fluent are typically in their late 50s or older. There are fewer than 100 speakers of Passamaquoddy (and not more than 350 Maliseet speakers) making this a language in danger of being lost within the next one or two generations unless efforts at language maintenance are successful. Fortunately, many projects are under way, including this one by Eve Ng of the State University of New York, Buffalo. She will be collecting texts and providing linguistic analysis which will be incorporated into language preservation efforts.
Nile Thompson Seattle, WA
Twana Language Use in Songs
As the pressure of European expansion in Washington State increased in the 1800s, the 12 or so aboriginal Twana communities began settling on the Skokomish Reservation, leading to a loss of dialect diversity and, eventually, of the language itself. Currently, the Tribe's collective knowledge of its own language has come to reside in a few individuals who know a few common words and, more importantly, a set of traditional songs. For the current project, Nile Thompson of Dushuyay Research, Seattle, will record two elders who remember the Twana songs. These records serve two purposes: First, it will make it possible for the Twana to continue to weave the traditional songs into their daily lives and continue to pass them to their descendants. Second, the possible use of language switching within the songs, an important linguistic indication of group identification, will be available for study
Timothy Thornes University of Oregon
Documentation of Burns Paiute
The Northern Paiute language is the northern-most member of the Uto-Aztecan family, currently spoken by about 400 people in Nevada, Oregon, California and Idaho. The project undertaken by Timothy Thornes of the University of Oregon examines one of these communities, the one in Burns, Oregon. A wide range of texts will be recorded, including traditional tales, descriptions of culturally significant areas and the activities associated with them, family histories, autobiographical information of the elders, and natural conversation in the language. Each of these text types serves as a reservoir for different aspects of the language, the culture, and the history of the Burns Paiute community, and will be preserved and used for years to come.
Suzanne Wash U. California, Santa Barbara
The Last Speakers of Northern Sierra Miwok
Of the ten or so speakers of Northern Sierra Miwok still alive, the fluent ones are all at least 60 years of age. For records that will be essential to any future revival effort, and for the immediate value that such a linguistic legacy brings, Suzanne Wash of the University of California, Santa Barbara, received support from the Fund. Her work began in 1992 and has continued with support from the Phillips Fund. Apart from the value of the language artifacts to the descendants of the speakers, Northern Sierra Miwok presents an unusual pattern among languages: It uses both metathesis (exchanging consonants or vowels) and quantitative ablaut (lengthening of both consonants and vowels).
Mary Louise Defender Wilson Shields, ND
Broadcasting in Dakotah on KLND
When children are riding the bus to events on a Saturday afternoon, their driver can tune in to KLND, Little Eagle, South Dakota, and hear Dakotah language programming. They hear legends, talk, and even discussions of food. Teenagers are excited to hear things of interest to them in their own language, and older people say that they never expected to hear stories in their language again. It makes them feel good, and the younger people remark about how they never realized the wisdom and teaching in the stories. The grant from the Endangered Language Fund will allow Mary Louise Defender Wilson to travel and record more such stories and conversations so that Dakotah can continue to live on the airwaves of South Dakota.
Aklilu Yilma Addis Ababa University
Recording the Last Speakers of Ongota
Although Ethiopia is a linguistically diverse country, even there languages are becoming extinct. The small community of the Ongota, only 78 strong, have come to realize the predicament their language is in and have asked for help in preserving it. Aklilu Yilma, of Addis Ababa University, has received assistance from the Fund to provide that help. He has found that the language is so little known that its correct language family is not even known. His initial efforts, then, will be as full a description of the phonology, morphology and syntax as can be accomplished in the time he has available. Since most of the speakers are elderly, his work will be essential for any decision that is made by the community about the future of the language.