Archive for the ‘books and journals’ Category

Dissertation on Ndengeleko, a low-prestige language

23 April 2013

Last month Eva-Marie Ström published her doctoral dissertation titled “The Ndengeleko Language of Tanzania.”

Covering everything from the Ndengeleko people, an attitudinal survey, phonology and grammar, the dissertation is the first description of Ndengeleko (ndg).

Ström’s estimate of the number of speakers is 72,000, down from the 2000 estimate cited by the Ethnologue of 110,000. Due to factors such as the low-prestige status of Ndengleko and lack of economic benefits that speaking the language brings, Ström believes the language to be in danger of disappearing in a few generations.

See also “Endangered African language explored” for a summary of the language and her work.

Paakantji/English children books issued

24 July 2012

Paakantji or Darling (drl) is a language in New South Wales, Australia, with between two and five fluent speakers. To build a new generation of speakers, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation has issued two bilingual books titled “No Tharlta on the Bus” and “Lenny and the Big Red Malka.”

For more information, also see the ILF Facebook page.

This post was inspired by “New books to reinvigorate Indigenous language.”

“We Are Our Language”

3 July 2012

Published last year, “We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a Northern Athabaskan Community” is a volume by Barbra A. Meek, associate professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Michigan.

According to the book’s page,

The process must mend rips and tears in the social fabric of the language community that result from an enduring colonial history focused on termination. These “disjunctures” include government policies conflicting with community goals, widely varying teaching methods and generational viewpoints, and even clashing ideologies within the language community.

The language that is the focus of the book is Kaska (kkz), a language spoken in the Yukon Territory and British Columbia. According to a review by Patrick Moore in last fall’s edition of Anthropological Linguistics, the book discusses how focusing on elders in revitalization alienates younger speakers.

Google previews of the book are available at “We Are Our Language.” The table of contents are:

  • Ruptured: Kaska in Context
  • Endangered Languages and the Process of Language Revitalization
  • Growing Up Endangered
  • Manufacturing Legitimate Languages
  • “We Are Our Language”: The Political Discourses of Language Endangerment
  • From Revitalization to Socialization: Disjuncture and Beyond
 This book is the part of a series titled “First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies,” a collaboration of four university presses.

Program for the nomadic Penan

31 May 2012

The Penan are one of the last nomadic hunter-gathering peoples of the world. Inhabiting both the Malaysian and Brunei parts of the island of Brunei, about only 200 of 16,000 Penan remain nomadic.

They speak Eastern Penan (pez) and Western Penan (pne), which puts youngsters at a disadvantage in Malaysian schools where the national Malay (zsm) tongue is spoken.

To bring literacy to the Penan so they are adequately prepared to deal with the society they find themselves in, the Borneo Project is working on a series of books in Penan and has a bilingual preschool program for the Penan.

To learn more about the Penan, read “The Borneo Project,” in the Earth Island Journal.

Review of “Telling Stories In the Face of Danger” and Kumeyaay

21 May 2012

In “BOOKS: Can language preservation battle be won?,” Richard L. Carrico reviews “Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities,” published earlier this year by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Edited by Paul V. Kroskrity, professor at UCLA, the paperback is a compilation of stories, commentary on the stories and academic discourse.

The offerings include a piece by Margaret Field, a professor at San Diego State University working to revitalize Kumiai. Listed as Kumeyaay (dih) on Wikipedia, this language is listed by the Ethnologue as having 330 speakers. Although controversial, many break Kumeyaay into three languages: Ipai (dih-ipa), Kumeyaay proper and Tiipai (dih-tiidih-tip), with the number of speakers ranging from 25 to 200 for each. Eight Kumeyaay lessons by Field and others are available on the website of San Diego State University’s Language Acquisition Resource Center.

Central Australian language handbook

10 May 2012

Robert Hoogenraad and Brenda Thornley’s 2003 “Aboriginal languages of Central Australia and the places where they are spoken” is a 30-page paperback on languages in Central Australia.

Literature and vocabulary development in Zulu

8 May 2012

Zulu (zul), or isiZulu as the language is known in Zulu, is by no means endangered. With more than 10 million speakers and status as an official language of South Africa, Zulu is a vibrant, thriving language. Indeed, in November 2010, a Zulu edition of South Africa’s Daily Times was launched (“Sunday Times to print Zulu edition“).

But to Oxford graduate and contributors to the Zulu edition, Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi, Zulu lacks an adequate literature. He has launched Mbuyazi Publishing to rectify that and has three books so far (either published in the publishing process).

In addition to writing those three books, Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi has also developed an alternative numbering system for Zulu and introduced some 450 words to the language.

“California Indian Languages” published

3 October 2011

According to “HSU Author Publishes Indian Language Encyclopedia,” on the Humboldt State Now blog, Victor Golla’s encyclopedia of California languages is now available for purchase.

According to the book’s description on Amazon.com, “California Indian Languages” is 400 pages long. It also says that California was once home to seventy-eight languages, the most linguistically diverse area in the New World.

According to the Now blog, “Golla’s compendium cites everything known about the languages of California as they have been recorded and transcribed by linguists and anthropologists since the 1880s” and includes other earlier sources as well.

For language maps of California, see “California Indians Root Languages and Tribal Groups” and “Native Tribes, Groups, Language Families and Dialects of California in 1770.”

Jeroen Darquennes in Mercator spotlight

20 June 2011

In 1981, the European Parliament adopted the Arfé Resolution, providing 100K ECUs (euros) to be used for minority and regional languages.Since then, the EU has become more and more active in promoting local language use. One ally in those efforts is the Mercator Network (founded in 1987) and its branch the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning.

The Mercator European Research Centre’s “expert in the spotlight” for 2011 is Jeroen Darquennes, an associate professor at the University of Namur in Belgium. In the late 1990s, he did his PhD on German language revitalization in Belgium. Today, he is co-preparing his third volume of the Sociolinguista series and a few years back co-founded the research group Groupe de recherche sur le Plurilinguisme (Pluri-ll).

Read the interview with Darquennes at “Expert in the Spotlight in 2011: Jeroen Darquennes” on the Mercator European Research Centre website.

1. O’Reilly, Camille. Language, Ethnicity and the State: Minority Languages in the European Union, vol. 1, p. 24. Palgrave Macmillan: 2001.

Assyrian Dictionary Complete

14 June 2011

After nine decades of work, scholars have completed the 21-volume “Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.” Although the set can be purchased for USD 1995, it is also available free of charge to download (with restrictions on use).

A language whose literature includes the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” Old Akkadian (akk) was spoken between 4500 and 4000 years ago, after which scholars consider the language to have broken into two dialects: Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. These continued to develop, disappearing about two thousand years ago. The dictionary project covers all known stages of the 2600 years of the language.

Running about 9700 pages in length (not including the front matter), the dictionary includes 28,000 words, a number perhaps comparable to the number of unique words Shakespeare used.*

As with the Oxford English Dictionary, the plan for the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project was ambitiously wide in scope and the expected time to compile grossly underestimated. The database used to compile is nearly two million file cards, and the dictionary will surely be recorded as one of the greatest accomplishments of scholarship.

Will Assyrian/Akkadian be brought back to life as we see with Latin, Old English, Sanskrit and other ancient languages?

The article “Dictionary of dead language complete after 90 years,” one of the sources for this blog post, includes a short audio clip of Irving Finkel speaking Akkadian. The Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has a series of recordings, including many of the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

John Heise maintains a site on Akkadian, including grammar lessons, where he suggests tuppi bitim “home clay tablet” as the word for “home page.” The 1961 edition of the text Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar by I.J. Gelb can be downloaded as a PDF. The 1881 “A Sumero-Akkadian grammar” by George Bertin is also available for download.

Also, YouTube videos can assist in learning to write the language, such as “You Can Write in Akkadian, Lesson One” by GiskAkina:


Because no people today claims descent from the ancient Akkadians and no language exists that descends from Akkadian, it seems unlikely Akkadian will become the target of revitalization. The literature, however, will continue on and the “Assyrian Dictionary” will be a valuable resource for understanding this ancient culture.

* For the number of unique words Shakespeare used, see:

  1. The Man Who Shakespeare Was Not (and Who He Was)” by Charlton Ogburn
  2.  “Shakespeare’s Vocabulary Considered Unexceptional” by zwischenzugs
  3. Shakespeare’s Vocabulary: Myth and Reality” by Hugh Craig (I do not have access to this and have not confirmed the contents)