Arctic Indigenous Languages

December 26, 2008 at 12:54 am | Posted in arctic, Language, North Pole, Research | Leave a comment
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This is one of the most specific sites I found. Is it dedicated to all of the Arctic languages, so the topic is quite similar to mine. It is packed with good information, I will post something more later on:

Welcome to Arctic Indigenous Languages website.


This website aims to be a resource that strengthens Arctic indigenous languages. It includes background papers and articles related to indigenous languages, video clips of Arctic indigenous people explaining how important their languages are to them, and descriptions of current best practices in the protection and revitalization of indigenous languages.

An interestint section of the page is the one about the state of Arctic Indigenous Languages, where you will find some interesting documents:

State of Arctic Indigenous Languages

saami woman in conversationThe circumpolar Arctic is home to over 40 indigenous languages, with hundreds of indigenous communities spread throughout the circumpolar region – many speaking local variations of their people’s language. Because these communities differ in many ways, including their historical interactions with their colonizers and non-indigenous neighbours, it is clear that there will be many local perspectives and variations in how indigenous languages are currently used in the Arctic.

The articles and links on this page offer recent information on the state of Arctic indigenous languages, though this information is certainly not exhaustive.


Arctic Human Development Report (Chapter 3: Societies and Cultures: Change and Persistence) PDF icon

The Arctic Human Development Report was published in November 2004. The section “Languages: losses and reversed language shifts” on pages 53-56 describes the current state of the over 40 indigenous languages spoken in the Arctic.


United Nations Forum calls on governments to immediately support the revitalization of indigenous languages PDF icon

English | French | Inuktitut | Inuinnaqtun

May 27, 2008 (Iqaluit, Nunavut) – The Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth welcomes the recent calls for action from the international community to stop the rapid erosion of indigenous languages.


National Inuit Leader Says Census Data points to Call for ActionPDF icon

The President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Mary Simon says Inuit must recognize that the Inuit language is eroding and be prepared to do whatever is necessary to reverse this trend to protect, preserve and enhance the Inuit language and the different dialects that we speak.


Nunavut Examines Indigenous Language Issues
on World Stage
PDF icon

The Government of Nunavut recently returned home after attending the 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. The forum is a United Nations advisory body that deals with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights.


UNESCO – 2008 International Year of Languages

On 16 May 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 to be the International Year of Languages. UNESCO invites all its partners to increase their own activities to promote and protect all languages, particularly endangered languages, in all individual and collective contexts.


International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Languages

Documents from the indigenous experts, UNPFII members, Member States, UN Agencies, Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations who participated in the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Languages in New York, 8-10 January 2008.


Inuit Language PDF icon

Presentation by Carl Christian Olsen (Puju) at the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Languages, 8-10 January 2008.


International Day of World’s Indigenous People (August 9th)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, to be observed August 9th, 2008.


Inuktut Uqausiit (Inuit Languages) in Canada – History and Contemporary Developments – Nadine Fabbi PDF icon

This overview of the history and current use of Inuit languages was updated in August 2008 to reflect the latest developments of Inuit languages in Canada.


Preserving Endangered Languages or Local Speech Variants in Kamchatka PDF icon

This paper was prepared for the 12th Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, held in September 2008. It concerns various language preservation projects in the Russian Far East that center on the production and dissemination of multimedia language teaching materials (DVD with textbook) with culturally adapted content, designed for use inside and outside the classroom. They refer to the endangered language of Itelmen as well as to endangered local variants of the Even and the Koryak languages spoken in Kamchatka.

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Revitalizing Indigenous Languages

August 16, 2008 at 2:25 am | Posted in Language, Research | 1 Comment
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Thanks to Northern Arizona University I found this interesting paper about indigenous languages revitalization. This is a field on which I have been interested before, probably because of my linguistic education at the university. And because personally, I totally agree with the fact that language is one of the most important things regarding cultural diversity. The paper is quite long, so I just selected some parts of it. You can read the full version here.

Some Basics of Indigenous Language Revitalization
Jon Reyhner

Fishman’s eight stages of language loss

Based on his study of minority languages worldwide, Fishman postulated in his landmark 1991 book Reversing Language Shift a continuum of eight stages of language loss with stage eight being the closest to total extinction and stage one being the closest to dynamic survival. Fishman’s eight stages are summarized below and in Figure 1 along with suggestions on what can be done to promote indigenous language use at each stage based on presentations at the Stabilizing Indigenous Languages symposiums and other sources. It is important to remember that one of Fishman’s stages can only roughly approximate the real situation of a particular indigenous language, and it is imperative to understand that different approaches to language revitalization are called for depending upon the current health of a language and unique local conditions.

(go here and see the scale)

The role of technology in revitalizing indigenous languages

The final section in this volume is on the uses of technology in indigenous language revitalization efforts. There has been telling criticism of “technofixes” for endangered languages. Hilaire Paul Valiquette writes that,

Computers are the most questionable of language teaching tools. They are not cost-effective; they bypass intergenerational teaching; they often involve handing over control to technical experts. They are very often connected with bad L[anguage] teaching (word lists, clicking on the face to hear the word ‘nose,’ etc.). Their use makes a patronizing statement: “the superiority of technology of the dominant culture is saving you.” (1998, p. 111)

However given that, he goes on to write, “Computers do have a use in long-range language preservation” (1998, p. 111).

The first paper in this section by Mizuki Miyashita and Laura Moll describing a dictionary project is a good example of using technology to inexpensively aid both language documentation and to make that information more accessible to indigenous language learners. The second paper by Amar Almasude focuses on how cassette tape recorders and other new technologies have allowed an oral culture to be maintained and diffused both within Morocco and and among emigrants abroad. The last paper by Robert St. Clair and his colleagues gives useful information to anyone interested in publishing indigenous language materials.

Teaching and supporting indigenous languages

Anyone studying the issue knows how threatened indigenous languages are everywhere in the world despite the rhetoric of tribal policies and the Native American Languages Act in the United States and similar efforts abroad, such as the 1992 Sámi Language Act in Norway (Corson, 1995). However, this volume emphasizes the positive steps being taken to effectively revitalize indigenous languages so that Native people who wish to keep their languages alive can get some guidance from the efforts currently being made around the world. And I want to emphasize that these efforts supporting indigenous languages indicate that children can learn an international language such as English along with their indigenous language. English does not have to be purchased at the price of losing one’s indigenous language.

However, if we are to get beyond teaching students numbers, colors, and names of animals, teacher education will be critical in regard to school programs designed to revitalize indigenous languages. There is a large body of experience with second language teaching that can inform teachers of indigenous languages. In particular, Joyce Silverthorne, a member of the Montana State Board of Education, dealt at the 1997 symposium with the broad overview of education required for a professional indigenous language teacher. An excellent inservice teacher training model for promoting indigenous language preservation and teaching that incorporates modern research on second language acquistion is described in the appendices of Stabilizing Indigenous Languages (Cantoni, 1996, pp. 234-239). Developed by Richard Littlebear and the staff of the Interface Alaska Bilingual Multifunctional Resource Center, the model stresses the importance of the use of the Total Physical Response (TPR) and “Natural” approaches to language learning for beginning language instruction. The model also discusses the importance of attitudes towards language, building a theoretical base, building a rationale for language preservation, classroom teaching methods, practical applications, and follow-up to training. Immersion teaching methods, such as Greymorning describes in this volume, are most conducive to developing communicative competence, but they require fluent teachers who are not always available. Teresa McCarty and her colleagues described at the 1997 symposium an intensive summer training program for teachers of indigenous languages, and Cantoni and Reyhner (1998) summarized what educators can do to help with indigenous language revitalization.

Steve Greymorning’s 1997 symposium presentation on “Going Beyond Words” and paper in this volume describe various efforts to teach Arapaho to school children, which had more and more success as the teachers were taught various immersion language teaching methods and spent more classroom time using them to teach Arapaho, but he concludes by advocating the Maori “philosophy of language from the breast,” which emphasizes intergenerational language transmission in the home. The Maori have started language classes for mothers with children 16 to 24 months old. Mothers learn Maori while their babies also learn the sounds and cadences of their tribal language. Veronica Carpenter described at the 1997 symposium how young children pick up the sounds and rhythms of the language(s) spoken around them and how older children not so exposed to their tribe’s language need specific help to pick up that sound system they did not learn at their mother’s side.

It is well known that infants who are breast fed pick up immunities from childhood diseases from their mother’s milk, and I maintain that children who learn their indigenous language and culture at their mother’s breast pick up immunities from the diseases of modern life that lead our children to joining youth gangs, abusing drugs and alcohol, and becoming members of the rootless consumer society described by Robert N. St. Clair in his talk on “The Invisible Doors Between Cultures” at the 1997 symposium. The message about the values of indigenous languages and cultures that I found on the Iñupiaq wallet card I received in Anchorage at the Third Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium needs to be a part of any indigenous language revitalization effort. Whichever of Fishman’s stages an indigenous language is in, there is a need to convince people, indigenous and non-indigenous, that keeping the language alive is important. This need for “marketing” indigenous languages was described at the 1997 symposium in regard to the Maori of Aeotora/New Zealand by Rangi Nicholson.

Conclusion

Indigenous language activists first need to determine the current status of their language and then set realistic goals for their language revitalization efforts. Irregardless of whether these goals include literacy, once goals are established, language activists need to concentrate on the methods, materials, and motivation they will use to achieve their goals, what I term the three “M’s” of indigenous language education (see Figure 4). It is these three “M’s” that will either lead indigenous language learners to communicative competence and more sophisticated language usage or to failure.

No one person, community, school, university, tribe, or government program has all the answers to keeping any indigenous language alive. It is only through sharing successes and learning from failures that the extinction of indigenous languages can be prevented. More needs to be done to create a network of information sharing between indigenous communities. The five symposiums and associated publications, including this volume, Revitalizing Indigenous Languages, are among the many attempts to get the word out about the importance and value of indigenous languages, the current peril they are in, and what can be done to revitalize them.

Go and take a look on their site, if this is a subject you are interested in.

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