Archive for the ‘creoles’ Category

Chinuk Wawa dictionary published!

23 May 2012

When people who speak different languages come together, they develop a somewhat systematic way of talking referred to as a pidgin language. If that pidgin is adopted as a regular way of speaking and children learn it as a native language, the pidgin becomes a creole. (Thus, “Pidgin” spoken Hawai’i is actually a creole language, not a pidgin.)

In the Pacific Northwest region of the US, a pidgin called Chinook Jargon (chn) developed in the Columbia River area and spread in the areas now known as Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It is debated whether Chinook Jargon existed before European contact, but it flourished in the contact period, and Chinook Jargon has lent words to English.

At some point, Chinook Jargon underwent creolization in the Grand Ronde Community, and survived while 27 native languages perished during the termination era.

In the 1970s, Chinook Jargon was taught in Grand Ronde, and in the 1990s, the language was renamed Chinuk Wawa with a new vision. Today, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde have preschool and kindergarten classes in Chinuk Wawa, and offer adult and family language learning opportunities as well.

As reported in the Seattle Times, a new Chinuk Wawa dictionary (presumably bilingual with English) is available. Titled in full “Chinuk Wawa / kakwa nsayka ulman-tilixam laska munk-kEmtEks nsayka / As Our Elders Teach Us to Speak It,” it is 494 page long and was compiled by the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project. It can be ordered from the University of Washington Press.

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ALTA blog on languages

24 April 2011

ALTA Language Services is a translation company with a blog called “Beyond Words,” providing information on language since March 2008. Four of their posts over the past year have focused on endangered languages.

  1. Macanese (mzs)

On April 20, the post “Macanese” looks at a creole spoken in Macau (Macao), a special administration region of China and former colony of Portugal.

When people speaking different languages come together, a language sometimes comes into being and is known as a pidgin. If that pidgin becomes established and children begin learning it as their native language, it is then known as a creole.

The languages that were combined in the formation of Macanese are: Malay (msa), Sinhala (sin), Cantonese (yue), and Portuguese (por). According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, there were 50 speakers of the language as of 2000. According to Wikipedia, the Macanese diaspora contributed to the loss of the community.

2. Koro (not yet classified by Ethnologue)

The discovery of the Koro Language in the Himalayas discusses Koro, a language discovered by the Enduring Voices Project.

3. Salish (family)

Spoken in the Pacific Northwest, the Salish languages are all endangered or extinct. As noted in the blog post “Salish,” there are signs written in Salish along the road in Montana.

4. Shiyeyi or Yeyi (yey)

Listed as “definitely endangered” with 20,000 speakers in 2000 by the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, Yeyi has more clicks than any other Bantu language. As noted in “Shiyeyi,” it is spoken in Southern Africa, primarily in the nation Botswana, though speakers are turning to Tswana (tsn), the most widely spoken language in Botswana.

Looking forward to more great articles on endangered languages and other language issues on Beyond Words!

Gullah-Geechee Conference on Saturday

31 March 2011

Gullah (gul), or Geechee as the language is known to insiders, is spoken by about 250,000 people on the East Coast of the US from the Carolinas to Florida. The language is a creole, based primarily on English with contributions from Akan, Bambara, Ewe, Fula, Hausa, Igbo, Kimbundu, Kongo, Mandinka, Mende, Umbundu, Vai, Wolof and Yoruba (all of which appear to have large speaking populations).

Cape Fear Community College is hosting a conference on Saturday, April 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Wilmington, North Carolina, US. The topic of the conference is the future of the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

The Gullah people are an African-American population with a unique culture within the United States. Many Americans are familiar with the Brer Rabbit (Brer = Brother) stories about a trickster rabbit, an oral tradition of the Gullahs.

The Gullah people are working to maintain their culture, including their language. In 2005, a New Testament was completed in Gullah after 20 years of work.

YouTube has a video by Richard Green on Ultimate Gullah, a store and cultural center in South Carolina. Gullah/Geechee Nation is one of the pages on Facebook focused on Gullah culture.

A glossary of some Gullah words can be found at “A Glossary of Gullah Wordstaken from The Black Border by Ambrose E. Gonzales” and the full text of the book at “The black border; Gullah stories of the Carolina coast.” Gullah songs can be found at Gullah. The movie “Conrack” about a white schoolteacher who gets a job on an island teaching African-American children is a true story that took place in a Gullah community. Many other books and movies are also available.

Alaska Languages – Continuing Award for Collaboration

17 March 2008

Last September, the NSF awarded the University of Alaska Fairbanks just over US$450,000, with Michael Krauss as principal investigator, to study 11 endangered languages in Alaska.

The languages to be studied (with Wikipedia and Ethnologue links) are: Han Athabascan (haa), Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan (kuu), Eyak (eya), Tlingit (tli), Southern Tsimshian (tsi), North Slope Inupiaq (esi), Central Alaskan Yup’ik (esu), Central Siberian Yupik (ess), Alutiiq (ems), Attuan Aleut (ale) and Kodiak Russian Creole, a language of approximately five speakers whose average age is 90 and apparently without a page on either Wikipedia or Ethnologue.

Krauss is joined by a host of prominent language researchers. Their names as well as other details of the award are detailed at “IPY – Documenting Alaskan and Neighboring Languages” as well as Veco Polar (second listing).

This blog entry was prompted by a Tundra Drums article and an EurekAlert article. The amount listed in those articles $1.2 million, and the Talking Alaska blog lists it at $1.4 million. The grant is a continuing grant, so the disparity in numbers probably reflects the way the calculation was made. (The NSF site lists three awards, totaling $1.06 million.)

To keep up with Alaskan and other endangered language issues, subscribe to  Gary Holton’s Talking Alaska blog. An article on Michael Krauss is available on Wikipedia.