Language Activists

Andrés Ozuna
Yshyr Chamacoco tribe of Paraguay 2009-

Mr. OzunaAndrés Ozuna is an Yshyr Chamacoco language activist from Karcha Bahlut, Paraguay. With the assistance of an Enduring Voices language technology kit, Andrés has produced a bilingual Yshyr-Spanish book on traditional plant uses among the Yshyr (Ishiro ôreyuwo poruwo/Sabiduria de los Ishir del Chaco). He has also recently written a short book on the Yshyr concept of truth in the Yshyr Chamacoco language. At the Enduring Voices language revitalization workshop in Santa Fe, Andrés produced another small booklet and the first-ever digital storybook in the Yshyr Chamacoco language. He is the primary figure behind the Yshyr Chamacoco Talking Dictionary. Today he is continuing his tireless campaign to promote his native language and working on a range of different projects in Yshyr Chamacoco.

Published Materials: The Ɨshɨr Concept of Truth

Rudolf Raward
Matugar Panau tribe of Papua New Guinea 2009-

Mr. RawardRudolf Raward is a leader in the Panau-speaking community of Matugar village, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. A former outstanding soccer goalkeeper, Rudolf now is Director of the SAKY Organization, which is devoted to the promotion and preservation of the traditional culture and language of his community. Panau is spoken by fewer than 500 speakers¬, has almost no child-age speakers and is rarely used even by adults and elders. Panau is spoken only in Matugar village and is therefore a highly endangered and unique language. At the Santa Fe workshop, Rudolf produced a digital storybook and the first ever book published in the Panau language.

Published Materials: Ngau Rudolf

Dr. Gracious Temsen
Khasi tribe, Minor Varieties of Khasi Project 2010-

Dr. TemsenDr. Gracious M. Temsen is a member of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya state, in the northeast of India. She is a professional linguist, the only member of her tribe working as a professor of linguistics. She is currently based at University of Hyderabad. Her work focuses on the description and analysis of her mother tongue, the Khasi language, which represents its own sub-group of the Mon-Khmer language family. According to Dr. Temsen, Khasi is actually a cluster of closely related dialects and sister languages, and the smallest ones are rapidly being lost. Dr. Temsen produced a short digital storybook based on a traditional Khasi folktale, as well as a short print book at the Santa Fe workshop. As a Living Tongues Institute Fellow, Dr. Temsen is conducting a study of the minor Khasi ‘dialects’ or sister languages in the important and still poorly known Khasic subgroup of Mon-Khmer/Austroasiatic and a comparative Talking Dictionary of the Khasic Languages.

Published Materials: The Tiger and The Fox

Mark Franco
Winnemem Wintu tribe of California 2010-

Mr. FrancoMark Franco is Headman of the Winnemem Wintu community based at the Winnemem Wintu village located outside of Redding, CA. An activist for the Winnemem Wintu community, Mark is an expert in a diverse array of topics ranging from indigenous rights, water access and development, restoration of the environment and return of the salmon to their traditional territories, now prevented from reaching the Winnemem or Middle Water (aka McCloud River) by a dam. Mark is also spearheading the revitalization efforts for the Winnemem Wintu language. At the workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico led by the Indigenous Language Institute and supported by National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project and Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, Mark produced a beautiful short film and a small booklet in the revitalizing Winnemem Wintu.

Published Materials: Counting Booklet & Waimem’s First Mocassins

Dr. Bhubaneshwar Sawaiyan
Ho tribe, Ho Language Project 2008-2010

Dr. Sawaiyan Bhubeneshwar Sawaiyan is a Ho language activist from Jharkhand state, India. An expert in tribal journalism, Dr. Sawaiyan produced a digital storybook on the traditional wedding practices of the Ho people, who represent a large tribal minority group whose language belongs to the Munda language family. Dr. Sawaiyan also produced a short booklet in the Ho language at the Santa Fe workshop held in April, 2010. He is currently is the personal secretary to Indian Government Minister, Dr. Ram Dayal Munda, the most prominent and senior government official representing a tribal community in India.

Published Materials: Hermit Story & Ho Web Sketch

Link to the Ho Talking Dictionary

2 thoughts on “Language Activists

    • hello Gustavo! Good question. What we mean is that the speakers of the languages are ultimately the ones who can save and maintain their own languages. Linguists (who are often outsiders to the speech community, but not always) can certainly assist in documenting the language, i.e creating an accurate and systematic record of the language’s phonetics, phonology, syntax, morphology and semantics. But it is important to remember that documentation alone will not keep the language alive, only speakers who continue to speak the language on a daily basis will keep the language transmission going from generation to generation. Linguists can also work the community’s educators to create important materials such as ABC readers, dictionaries, grammars, websites, etc. These materials will certainly help conserve and promote the language, but once again, the speakers are the ones who can truly keep the language’s legacy going in the community. One important aspect of this whole process is encouraging and supporting native speakers of endangered languages to become linguists themselves. That way, the native speakers themselves become more involved in multiple aspects of the language revitalization process: documenting the language, teaching the language to the community, promoting it, speaking it, passing it on, etc.

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