Archive for the ‘language types’ Category

Chitimacha on Rosetta Stone

28 March 2011

Seven decades after the last speaker of Chitimacha (ctm) passed away, great steps are being taken to restore its place in the world as an active language. Chitimacha is a language isolate, once spoken in Louisiana, US.

As reported in “Chitimacha: Building Blocks for Revitalization” on “RVoice: Inside Rosetta Stone,” a Rosetta Stone version of their famous language-learning software has been completed for Chitimacha. Although terms had to be coined for modern words such as computer and newspaper, the language was well documented before it went dormant.

Much work lies ahead in fostering a new generation of speakers through developing the education program to incorporate and complement the software. Read more at “From the Endangered Language Program: Chitimacha Release.”

To learn more about Rosetta Stone’s work with language revitalization, see their Endangered Language Program Page.

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Two Tales of Endangered Language Passion

25 March 2011

As reported in Passion for Preservation, Sadaf Munshi travels from Texas to remote regions of Pakistan every chance she gets, somewhat like Indy Jones to document Burushaski (bsk). Battling floods, closed roads and cultural attitudes against women speaking with men, she documents words, songs and dances.

Burushaski is a language isolate, which means it is not related to any other known language. Most languages are related to other languages. English, for example, is related to the Frisian languages (family) and Dutch as well as to German. Spanish is related to French and Italian. Basque (eus) in Spain and France and Ainu (ain) in northern Japan have not been demonstrated as being related to other languages and so are isolates.

In addition to being an isolate, Burushaski is almost completely unwritten. As Munshi has discovered, words in Burushaski are beginning to be replaced with Urdu words, and there is a concern that if the language is not documented, the language will be absorbed and disappear.

With Munshi’s work, the language will be written and documented for posterity.

The other tale of endangered language passion is that of a teenager, Alexa Little, who lives in a township in Pennsylvania, US. As told in “Shaler teen’s love of languages began with hieroglyphics,” Little became interested in ancient languages as a young child. In high school, she won a scholarship by developing an efficient method for typing Queche (probably Quechua (que)).

When Shaler read about the World Oral Literature Project to document endangered languages, she contacted the director who suggested she raise money to raise awareness. Earning more than USD 200, she then went on to organize a symposium that included linguistic experts from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Cambridge. Students from other high schools attended the event as well.

Shaler plans to become a linguist. It seems she has a bright future in front of her!

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.