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!

Advertisements

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.

voces_duraderas

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.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 2.17.18 PM

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!

Endangered Languages Fair at the New York Public Library

On September 29th, 2012, the Ethnic Services Round Table of the New York Library Association, the Endangered Language Alliance, and the New York Public Library (NYPL) joined forces to raise awareness about minority languages in danger. Attendees learned why small languages matter and what efforts are being made to preserve them.

Check out the Endangered Languages Fair event line-up on the NYPL website. There is also a write-up on the Endangered Language Alliance website.

K. David Harrison, Research Director for Living Tongues Institute and author of “The Last Speakers: The Quest to save the World’s Most Endangered Languages”, gave a special multi-media presentation entitled “Endangered Languages: Local & Global Perspectives”. Many other speakers and activists were also featured at the event. Here are some photos of the fair, courtesy of Living Tongues volunteer Natalie Feingold.

Introduction to K. David Harrison’s presentation at the New York Public Library

K. David Harrison addressing the crowd about language extinction

K. David Harrison and Living Tongues volunteer Natalie Feingold

For more background on the event, check out “Why Save Languages? A Few Words About Language Extinction and Revitalization” written by Brigid Cahalan, Library Sites & Services/Outreach for New York Publich Library.

Siletz Talking Dictionary featured in New York Times article

Image

At Living Tongues Institute, we have collaborated with the Siletz Dee-ni tribe in Oregon for the past 7 years, to create the Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary. This project, along with other Siletz language revitalization efforts, was recently featured in the New York Times. Check out the full article here. We recommend listening to the audio clips on the left side of the screen, so you can hear Bud Lane’s English translations of some very interesting Siletz terms!