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20 endangered languages in Alaska; InField to the rescue

Participants gathered together from Australia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, China, Surinam, Guiana, Nigeria, Kenya, Japan, Finland, Guatemala.

Now one workshop can't save any language but a recent institute certainly boosted the attendees' capacities for skills, strategies, and spirit in this challenging endeavor. UAS's Alice Taff, Marsha Hotch and Jordan Lachler joined 120 other linguists, language activists, and students June 21 through July 2, at the U of Oregon's Institute on Field Linguistics and Language Documentation, InField, where revitalizing endangered languages was the thrust of the teaching and learning. Participants gathered together from Australia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, China, Surinam, Guiana, Nigeria, Kenya, Japan, Finland, Guatemala, to name a few, to report on restoration activities of more than 50 endangered languages.

Group Photo
Alice Taff  (Alaska, UAS-Tlingit/Deg Xinag/Unangan Aleut languages),  Jack Buckskin (Australia-Kaurna language), Yvonne Malbons (Surinam-Kari’nja language), Marsha Hotch (Alaska, UAS, Tlingit language), Carol Genetti (California, UCSB- Dolakha Newar language and conference director), Jordan Lachler (Alaska, UAS-Haida/Tlingit/Tsimshian languages), and  Kennedy Bosire (Kenya-Ekegusii language) on the 12th day of the Institute on Field Linguistics and Language Documentation held June 21-July 2, 2010, at the U of Oregon.

Language revitalization stories included the Maori of New Zealand who have rebuilt their language community by establishing preschool ‘language nests”, broadcasting TV and radio in Maori, creating a Maori computer interface, and re-introducing Maori language use in the home. The Kaurni people of Adelaide, Australia, are awakening their language, which hasn't been spoken for 80 years, through sports, song, games, and common phrases, all created from the documentation of missionaries in the 1830s and 40s.

Lachler taught a class in lexicography while other Infield classes sharpened participants' techie skills with transcription software, relational database design, Internet archiving, videography, producing electronic dictionaries and grammars, helped with language activisim strategies, taught grant writing, linguistics, ethnobiology, field phonetics, orthography, place-based curriculum, and methods for reintroducing languages no longer spoken.

Because during these two weeks, the U of Oregon also hosted four other annual conferences with similar interests; the Northwest Indian Languages Institute, the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium, the Athabascan Languages Conference, and the Salishan and neighboring Languages Conference, attendees were swimming in a sea of opportunity for making connections and learning from others who work to keep the world's endangered languages above water.


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