Micronesia Language Revitalization Workshop

by K. David Harrison and Gregory D. S. Anderson

A Language Revitalization workshop was held over 4 days in July 2013 in Kolonia, Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) hosted by the Island Research Education Initiative (IREI) and the FSM National Dept. of Education and Special Education Program. Greg Anderson and David Harrison of the Living Tongues Institute led the workshop, which aimed to leverage new digital technologies in support of Micronesian languages. Yvonne Neth of IREI was the local coordinator and partner.

The fifteen participants in the workshop represented eight indigenous language communities: Pohnpeian, Pingelapese, Kapingamarangi, Nukuoro, Namolukese (dialect of Mortlockese), Yapese, Mokilese, and Kosraean. Language activists taking part in the workshop included Johnny Rudolph, Maynard Henry and Kurt Erwin representing the Nukuoro language; Danio Poll, Jason Lebehn and Monique Panaligan representing Mokilese; Yapese language activist Caroline Dabugsiy; Namolukese language activist
John Curley; Leilani Welley-Biza and Darlene Apis representing Pingelapese; Howartson Heinrich, Kapingamarangi language speaker; Arthur Albert representing Kosraean; and Pressler Martin and Mario Abello representing Pohnpeian.

We covered a variety of topics, including audio recording techniques, word and sentence elicitation, photo elicitation, lexicography, and building talking dictionaries. Further, the participants began building nine new Talking Dictionaries, and beta-tested a new interface that allows speakers to edit and record lexical items directly via their web browsers.

The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages team that ran the workshop consisted of five members with the following division of labor:

  • Dr. Greg Anderson—co-leader of workshop, linguistic documentation
  • Dr. David Harrison—co-leader of workshop, linguistic documentation
  • Jack Daulton—Ethnographic interviewing and photography
  • Roz Ho—Technology advising
  • Oliver Anderson—videography

The participants were energized by the workshop and delighted to be taking part. As Johnny Rudolph, Nukuoro language expert, put it: “The workshop was a great one and everybody did enjoy it very much and most importantly…[it] guided us to see and understand the importance of preserving our languages before losing them.” Johnny continued: “As for our Nukuoroan language, I feel very enthusiastic and enlightened with what we’ve learned… I chose to move forward and continue to build the Nukuoroan Lexicon into the computer system while inserting sounds, photos and perhaps to start teaching others how to use the Nukuoroan Lexicon on the internet while holding Nukuoroan language classes in either in public school or in other special educational learning settings.”

The nine dictionaries created during the workshop currently have nearly 12,000 lexical entries, many with soundfiles, and some with cultural photos. Community members will continue to expand these in the near future, and will use them in language revitalization efforts.

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Link to all dictionaries: http://talkingdictionary.swarthmore.edu/workshop.php

Following the workshop, the team visited remote Mwoakilloa Atoll, a landmass of only 0.8 square miles located in the outer reaches of Pohnpei State in the FSM. Here we continued work on the Mokilese language and collected words, sentences and folk stories from both elder and younger speakers in Mokilese. These will be added to the Mokilese Talking Dictionary and our YouTube video channel in coming months. We observed and conducted interviews about oral history, traditional foodways, fishing, outrigger canoe building, and navigation technology.

Mwoakilloa represents a unique and endangered speech community within Micronesia, as the Atoll has a permanent population of under 100 people. With most Mowoakilloans living away from the atoll, the language is vulnerable. At the same time, the community has mounted ambitious efforts, including a new Bible translation, children’s books, and the Talking Dictionary in an attempt to stabilize the language. We are grateful to Roz Ho and Jack Daulton for providing financial and technical support during the expedition. Jeremy Fahringer at Swarthmore College developed nine new Talking dictionaries for the workshop. Taking part in both the workshop and the trip to Mwoakilloa was Yvonne Neth, Vice-Director of IREI.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.34.20 PMJack Daulton and Roz Ho elicit and record Pingelapese words with Leilani Welley-Biza.
Photo K. David Harrison.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.36.28 PMMario Abello (Pohnpeian), and David Harrison with Nukuoro language team Kurt Erwin,
Johnny Rudolph, and Maynard Henry. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.37.40 PMCaroline Dabugsiy, Yapese speaker, interviews with Pressler Martin (Pohnpeian), David
Harrison and Oliver Anderson. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.38.46 PMDay 3 of the workshop, at the FSM Department of Education. Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.40.12 PMIchiro John, Mwoakilloan elder, interviews with Greg Anderson and David Harrison.
Photo Jack Daulton.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 6.41.16 PMCaroline Dabugsiy, Yapese speaker, records with Greg Anderson. Photo Jack Daulton.

Howartson Heinrich builds the Kapingamarangi Talking Dictionary.Howartson Heinrich builds the Kapingamarangi Talking Dictionary. Photo Jack Daulton.

Kapingamarangi women in Pohnpei making traditional handicrafts.Kapingamarangi women in Pohnpei making traditional handicrafts. Photo Jack Daulton.

Micronesia-7Maria Matthias and Carolina Joel shelling clams they harvested from Mwoakilloa lagoon.
Photo Jack Daulton.

Micronesia-8Traditional Mwoakilloan outrigger canoe (war), built by Abram Joel. Photo Jack Daulton.

Press Release: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program to Raise Awareness of Global Language Loss

The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates that of the more than 7,000 languages in the world, nearly half of them are in danger of becoming extinct by the end of this century. The Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival program “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage” will focus attention on this urgent issue of global language loss by bringing together communities from around the world that are fighting to save their native tongues and cultural traditions.

“One World, Many Voices” is produced in collaboration with UNESCO, the National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Initiative.

The Festival will be held Wednesday, June 26, through Sunday, June 30, and Wednesday, July 3, through Sunday, July 7, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. All events are free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day with evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“Language is a vital part of our human heritage and it is important to the culture and history of the people that speak it,” said program co-curator Marjorie Hunt. “The Festival provides a powerful platform for speakers of different languages to share their cultures and worldview with a large public audience on the National Mall.”

Hunt is co-curating the program with K. David Harrison, professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, and author of When Languages Die. Harrison has spent his career documenting and helping to revitalize languages.

Festival visitors will get the chance to hear and learn from participants representing 15 cultures working to preserve their languages. Musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, poets, culinary experts, and craftspeople will share how language embodies cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies and arts. The program will include performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations and hands-on family activities.

Native Hawaiians will demonstrate hula and discuss the role language has played in passing down the dance to the next generation. Native Americans from the Maine’s Passamaquoddy tribe will demonstrate how basket weaving is used to keep language alive, while participants from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon will perform the traditional Feather Dance and discuss how an online talking dictionary is helping to revitalize the tribes’ language.

Indigenous groups from Colombia—including the Wayuu, Palenque and Kamsá—will demonstrate native crafts, music and poetry while the Koro people of India will build bamboo spirit houses and share with visitors how they help ensure a good harvest. Internationally known Klezmer pioneer Michael Alpert will perform for visitors during the Festival.

Sponsors

Major support for “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage” is provided by the Dr. Frederik Paulsen Foundation, the Microsoft Local Language Program, the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, D.C., the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, the Caro y Cuervo Institute, the U.S. State Department Fund for Innovation in Public Diplomacy, the United States Embassy in Bolivia, the Inter-American Foundation, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the University of Hawaii System and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

About the Festival

The 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will feature three programs. In addition to “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage,” the programs are “Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival” and “The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity.”

The Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors people from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites presenters and performers in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

# # #

Media Only

Amy Kehs (202) 390-5543; kehsa@si.edu

Becky Haberacker 202) 633-5183; haberackerb@si.edu

Media website

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Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

One World, Many Voices

Of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world today—many of them unrecorded—up to half may disappear in this century. As languages vanish, communities lose a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human mind.

 

The One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will highlight language diversity as a vital part of our human heritage. Cultural experts from communities around the world will demonstrate how their ancestral tongues embody cultural knowledge, identity, values, technologies, and arts.

Through performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations, and hands-on educational activities, highly skilled musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, craftspeople, language educators, and other cultural practitioners will come together on the National Mall to share their artistry, knowledge, and traditions; to discuss the meaning and value of their languages to their cultural heritage and ways of life; and to address the challenges they face in maintaining the vitality of their languages in today’s world.

ImageFestival visitors will be able to talk with Kalmyk epic singers and Tuvan stone carvers from Russia, Koro rice farmers from India, Passamaquoddy basketmakers from Maine, Kallawaya medicinal healers and textile artists from Bolivia, Garifuna drummers and dancers from Los Angeles and New York, and many others.

When a language disappears, unique ways of knowing, understanding, and experiencing the world are lost forever. The expert culture bearers participating in the One World, Many Voices program will richly illustrate these different ways of knowing and show how cultural and language diversity enrich the world.

The One World, Many Voices program is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with UNESCO, the National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project, and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Initiative.

2013 Festival Schedule

47th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall,

Washington D.C., USA.

June 26-June 30 and July 3-July 7, 2013

Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Evening events 5:30 p.m.

A full schedule will be available in June 2013.

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K. David Harrison at the University of Montana

On Wednesday, 17 April, Mizuki Miyashita of the UM Linguistics Program hosted a series of events with Dr. K. David Harrison, an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic fellow. Two days before Dr. Harrison’s visit, there was a viewing of the documentary “The Linguists” (in which Dr. Harrison is featured). At Q&A event following the film, Dr. Harrison updated his audience on his most recent projects: Enduring Voices, jointly ventured at National Geographic, and Talking Dictionaries at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Dr. Harrison’s public lecture, “Endangered Languages: Local and Global Perspectives,” was very well-attended, and every copy of his book “When Languages Die” was purchased at the book-signing. Dr. Harrison explains that out of approximately 7,000 world languages, 83 are spoken by 80% of the world’s population, and the rest by indigenous or small language communities around the globe in regions which he calls “Language Hotspots.” For example, the Ös language (also known as Chulym) of the remotest regions of Siberia is currently spoken by only 7 people. Dr. Harrison has made the very first recordings of some of these languages. In some cases, these recordings are of the last speaker’s speech. For instance, one of his Talking Dictionaries is of the Siletz Dee-Ni language in Oregon, currently spoken by only one person. Harrison describes how language death eventually leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. These endangered languages contain “traditional knowledge” of plants, animal species, ecosystems and medicinal remedies. Sometimes language loss translates to the loss of worldviews.

At his talk, he also discussed efforts to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity worldwide and showed the audience original field materials and recordings of “language warriors” to illustrate local perspectives on language endangerment and extinction. As Dr. Harrison stated, “speakers generally love their languages, and want to keep them.” One of the video clips Harrison shared was of a young man singing a hip hop song in Aka (spoken in Northeastern India). Some Aka elders disapprove of the language being used in this way, but according to Harrison these young speakers are a “key to keeping the language.”

About half of world’s languages are predicted to become extinct in this century, including Native American languages of Montana. This event also raised an awareness of endangered indigenous knowledge encoded in languages of Montana, and brought together a diverse group of people: faculty and students of Linguistics, Anthropology, Native American Studies, Communication Studies, Environmental Studies and Music, as well as members of local Indigenous communities including Salish, Kootenai and Blackfeet.

The event was supported by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Department of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Studies, Department of Communication Studies, and Department of Native American Studies, Department of Society and Conservation in the College of Forestry and Conservation, Green Thread, the UM Linguistics Club, and the Linguistics Program.

Here are some photos from K. David Harrison’s trip:

ImageDr. Harrison at the University of Montana.

ImageK. David Harrison with Salish tribal linguists Germaine White and Tom Smith.

For more details about his lecture at the University of Montana, check out this article published in the Missoulian. Thanks for reading!

Talking Dictionaries of Latin America

We are pleased to announce that 14 new Talking Dictionaries for Latin America are now under development and are available for online viewing and listening. The new dictionaries were created in collaboration with indigenous speakers, linguists and technical specialists at two recent digital skills workshops in South America.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.50.50 PMThe Mam, Mapudungun, Mazahua, Miahuatec Zapotec, Monkox Besiro, Pipil (Nahuat), Quechua Chanka, Tsesungun and Yanesha were produced in Chile at our digital skills workshop called “Voces Duraderas” that we held at the Biblioteca de Santiago in Chile. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson and Anna Luisa Daigneault traveled to Chile to teach the workshop in January 2013. We would like to acknowledge the great work of the following indigenous speakers who attended the event and learned the digital skills necessary to build these new dictionaries:

– Andres Ozuna Ortiz (Yshyr-chamacoco, Paraguay)
– Anselmo Nuyado Ancapichun and Jonattan Laoiza Ancapichun (Tsesungun, Chile)
– Espíritu Bautista and Elmo Bautista (Yanesha / Amuesha, Peru)
– Judith Condori Gavilán (Quechua Chanka, Peru)
– María Inés Huenuñir Antihuala (Mapudungun, Chile)
– Emiliano Cruz Santiago (Miahuatec Zapotec San Bartolomé Loxicha, México)
– Verónica Fidencio Núñez (Mazahua, México)
– Carlos Enrique Cortez (Pipil / Nahuat, El Salvador)
– José Reginaldo Pérez Vail (Mam, Guatemala)
– Ignacio Tomicha Chuve (Monkox Besiro, Bolivia)

Many thanks to Eddie Avila from Rising Voices who helped us facilitate the workshop, and to Cristian Maturana and the rest of the staff at Biblioteca de Santiago who helped us make the “Voces Duraderas” workshop a success for all who took part.

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Talking Dictionaries of Colombia

The Talking Dictionaries for Nasa Yuwe, Sáliba, Embera, Uitoto and Wayuunaiki were produced by a team of linguists, indigenous specialists and language activists at a workshop at the Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Colombia. Dr. K. David Harrison traveled there in October 2012 to help facilitate the workshop and produce these dictionaries, which are still under construction. Check out our blog posting about his trip.

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These online dictionaries are a powerful educational tools for communities that are trying to revitalize their endangered languages. Each site is programmed to be bilingual so that speakers of the local dominant language can easily use it. It serves as a resource to help fluent speakers teach their native language to a new generation of speakers.

These Talking Dictionaries were created by the Enduring Voices Project funded by the National Geographic Society and Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. Additional support and hosting by Swarthmore College. Interface and database design under the direction of Jeremy Fahringer.

If you love Talking Dictionaries as much as we do, please consider donating to our fundraising campaign to build 12 new Talking Dictionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Thanks for reading!

Enduring Voices Media Skills Workshop in Chile, Jan 7-11, 2013

We are pleased to announce we are teaming up with National Geographic to produce a digital media skills workshop for speakers of Latin American endangered languages.

The event is called “Voces Duraderas” (part of our “Enduring Voices Project“) and it will take place from January 7th to 11th, in Santiago, Chile. Twelve indigenous participants from seven different countries will be taking part in the workshop. We are really looking forward to this! The program (in Spanish) is available here.

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And, we are happy that our upcoming Latin American workshop has already received some great press coverage! Read about it in TIME Magazine’s Newsfeed, This is Chile (Chile’s official website), and on the Rising Voices blog.

ImagePhoto caption from “This is Chile” article about the workshop.

Thanks for reading and supporting endangered language documentation!

If you are in Santiago, feel free to join us for the closing day of the workshop:

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“Festival of Words” and Talking Dictionary Workshop in Colombia

ImageIn October 2012, Dr. K. David Harrison traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, to participate in the 3rd annual “Festival de la Palabra” (Festival of Words) in honor of the diversity indigenous languages and cultures in Colombia.

The event was organized by the Instituto Caro y Cuervo. More information, including the event program, can be found on the event website, which describes the event as follows:

“El Festival de la Palabra Caro y Cuervo en su tercera versión está dirigido a presentar la riqueza cultural de diversas comunidades indígenas de nuestro país a través de manifestaciones culturales (música, danza, arte propio, medicina tradicional), esta es una oportunidad para compartir un espacio alrededor de la palabra.
 
El Festival de la Palabra Caro y Cuervo es el evento más destacado dentro de las actividades que la institución desarrolla en el marco de la conmemoración de sus 70 años de existencia. La programación incluye talleres, conferencias y mesas redondas sobre lenguas nativas en las que participarán representantes de las comunidades indígenas, estudiosos e investigadores de estas comunidades; así mismo habrá una muestra artística y cultural. El evento contará también con la participación del lingüista David Harrison quien es conocido por sus estudios de lenguas en peligro de extinción.”

In conjunction with the festival, Dr. Harrison was also involved in teaching a Talking Dictionary Workshop. He met many leaders in the field of indigenous language activism in Colombia. Here are some of his photos, and the rest of the slideshow can be viewed on his Living Tongues photo album on Facebook.

ImageProf. Eudocio Becarra (Uitoto language expert) with Páez (Nasa Yuwe) team members Yesenia Rincón Jimenéz and Anania Piñacue.

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Embera team recording: Angelica Maná Avila, Daniel Aguirre, Lina Tobón Yagaií

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Audience at K. David Harrison lecture on digital dictionaries

Instituto Caro y Cuervo, Bogotá, Colombia