FEL 2017 grant: Development of an Uchinaaguchi karate and kobudo handbook

This is the fourth in our series of posts on grants awarded by FEL in 2017.

Overview. Uchinaaguchi ( ウチナーグチ ) is the most widely-spoken of six Ryukyuan languages in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, however it is expected to disappear within a few generations unless immediate revitalisation efforts are made. Sadly, if Uchinaaguchi disappears, so too will much of the rich vocabulary and concepts specific to Okinawan cultural arts, such as karate and kobudo ( 古武道, Okinawan fighting with weapons). Therefore, in collaboration with members of the Uchinaaguchi-speaking and martial arts practitioner communities, this project will collect and develop specialised martial arts-related Uchinaaguchi terminology into an Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Handbook, thereby promoting the use of Uchinaaguchi in the domain of Okinawan martial arts. Each page of the handbook will contain one Uchinaaguchi term, proverb, or place name, as well as Japanese and English translations, an illustration, and sample sentences. In addition to providing an opportunity for Uchinaaguchi speakers to use their language, the handbook will be a tangible Uchinaaguchi learning resource that will be made accessible to Uchinaaguchi speakers and karate and kobudo practitioners in Okinawa and abroad in print and via the internet.

Grantee. This project is led by Samantha May.

Samantha was an Okinawa resident between 2009 and 2015, and holds a 2015 PhD in Comparative Culture and Area Studies from the University of the Ryukyus, with a thesis entitled Uchinaaguchi Language Reclamation in the Martial Arts Community in Okinawa and Abroad. During her doctoral studies she began compiling the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Handbook. She also holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Communications from the University of the Ryukyus. She has a third degree blackbelt in Meibukan Goju Ryu, and second degree blackbelt in Shorinkai Shorin Ryu. She has spent more than ten years practicing Tesshinkan Ryukyu Kobudo, collaborating with Okinawan martial arts instructors and other Uchinaaguchi speakers. She has 15 years’ experience in language teaching, and developing language learning materials, having also worked in graphic design and social media.

FEL 2017 grant: Trilingual electronic dictionary (Kryz-Azerbaijani-English) with Kryz pronunciation

This is the third in our series of posts on FEL grants awarded in 2017.

Overview. This project aims at preservation and language revitalization by creating the first dictionary for Kryz, an endangered Caucasian language spoken in the alpine villages of the Qrız, Cek, Əlik, and Hapıt in the Republic of Azerbaijan. According to the 2016 census these villages had a total of 1,602 inhabitants. In order to create a modern trilingual (Kryz-Azerbaijani-English) electronic dictionary, data on Kryz words will be collected during fieldwork and translated in Azerbaijani and English. The dictionary will be supplemented with audiovisual recordings to indicate the correct pronunciations of individual words. The end product will then be uploaded on to a dedicated website. Scholars and researchers, the Kryz people, and the world community will have free access to this content.

Grantee. This project is led by Elnur Aliyev.

Elnur holds BA and MA qualifications in Areal Linguistics and Caucasian Philology from Tbilisi State University. From 2015 he has been enrolled in the PhD programme there working on The position of the Khinalug language among Dagestanian languages. In 2016-17 he was a visiting researcher at Malmö University, Sweden. Since 2010, he has made research visits to different scientific centres, libraries, and archives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Dagestan (Russian Federation), Turkey, and Sweden, working on endangered Caucasian languages of Azerbaijan.

Regional Interest Groups of the Foundation for Endangered Languages

This post was contributed by FEL Executive Committee member Tjeerd de Graaf.

The Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL) has various relations with regional organisations and groups which co-ordinate local activities about endangered languages, and it stimulates the creation of such groups. In those groups one or more representatives have the following tasks:

  • establish and strengthen the relation of specialists with the endangered language communities and organisations in their region;
  • report on best practice experiences of such EL communities in the field of language maintenance, revitalisation, etc.;
  • disseminate Endangered Languages news stories and inform mass media about them;
  • build links with linguistic and other professional organisations (national, local);
  • contribute to (the preparation of) FEL conferences and publications in the FEL blog, Ogmios and on the FEL web site;
  • support the documentation of endangered languages in their area and provide an inventory of existing material (archives, sound recordings, teaching materials, literature, etc.);
  • set up fund-raising events and look for possible sponsors of the work of FEL in the area;
  • join a network for area representatives, with whom information can be exchanged. For this purpose the internet plays an important role.

One of the organisations involved in working with (endangered) minority languages is the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. This is an independent and recognised centre for researchers, policy makers and other professionals. The Centre is hosted by the Fryske Akademy in the Netherlands, which concentrates on fundamental and applied research related to the Frisian language, culture, history and society.

Illustration 1. Mercator

The Mercator Centre is an academic platform where experts and policy makers can meet and exchange knowledge through conferences and workshops. With its Database of Experts, Mercator offers an overview of European expertise in the field of lesser-used languages. Via its Network of Schools, Mercator provides contacts between schools that teach lesser-used languages and the possibility to exchange ideas about their challenges.

The Centre shares knowledge via its publications:

Mercator gathers knowledge from all European countries about multilingual education and legislation and provides information to places all over the world. As an example, one can mention the Regional Dossiers, which in recent times are also published about some of the endangered languages of the Russian Federation (Nenets, Khanty, Selkup, Udmurt). In this sense, there exists an important link with the work of the Foundation for Endangered Languages.

Illustration 2. Nenets dossier in Russian

Dossiers about these languages are also published in Russian in order to reach more local people. We have safeguarded and published historical language material, not only texts, but also sound recordings. The reconstruction of endangered sound archives  provides material that can be used for the study and teaching of these languages, many of which are spoken in Siberia. This work can be considered as one of the aims of another regional organisation: the Foundation for Siberian Cultures, which works for the preservation of indigenous languages of Northern Eurasia. Learning tools and teaching materials by and for indigenous communities in Siberia may help to counteract the forces bringing about the loss of cultural diversity and the dissolution of local ethnic identities. Relevant learning tools have been and will be produced together with local experts using modern technologies. They are used for the teaching of the endangered languages to members of the local communities.

Illustration 3. Teaching in Siberia

FEL 2017 grant: Mapuzugun immersion camps in southern Chile

This is the third in our series of posts on grants FEL awarded in 2017.

Overview. Mapuzugun is an endangered indigenous language currently spoken by around 120,000 people (45,000 fluently) in southern Chile and Argentina. Throughout 2017, the Mapuzuguletuaiñ team of language activists organised language camps in rural areas of southern Chile where the language is still spoken, funded by FEL. Each camp consisted of an intensive schedule of language classes and immersion activities, including traditional Mapuche games. The aims of the camps were to create spaces where Mapuzugun is the default language of interaction, to improve the Mapuzugun proficiency of participants, and to foster a network of (neo-)speakers who interact with each other in Mapuzugun. An additional aim was for younger learners of the language to interact with fluent older speakers who live locally, thereby making the most of a small time window that exists when fluent first-language speakers still exist and there is a group of learners (mostly in their twenties) enthusiastic to learn from them.

Grantee. This project is led by Robbie Felix Penman.

Robbie completed an MA in Language Documentation and Description at SOAS, University of London, in 2016. On his third trip to South America in 2015, he researched the officialisation of Mapuzugun and the language policies of NGOs, for a course in language revitalisation and for my dissertation, respectively. He also presented at a SOAS conference on Mapuzugun revitalisation in connection to the so-called “Mapuche conflict”. Since finishing his MA he has been living in southern Chile, where he has been working on language revitalisation, particularly by advising the Ministry of Education on language pedagogy for Chesungun, the variety of Mapuzugun spoken in Osorno province. He speaks fluent Spanish and some basic Mapuzugun, as well as having a Trinity certificate in English teaching and professional experience in TESOL and translation. This project is being carried out in collaboration with the Mapuzuguletuaiñ team of Mapuche language activists.

FEL 2017 grant: Printing and presentation of an Ambel-Papuan Malay-English dictionary

This is the second grant that FEL awarded in 2017.

Overview. From 2013 to 2018, the grantee, Laura Arnold, carried out a major documentation project on Ambel, an endangered Austronesian language spoken in West Papua province, Indonesia. On the basis of materials collected in that project, she worked with members of the Ambel community to produce a trilingual dictionary (Ambel-Papuan Malay-English), with reversal entries. In this FEL project, she plans to publish and print the dictionary in a hardback format so that it will be durable, and travel to the Ambel villages to present the text to the local community. She will also organise workshops that will instruct the Ambel on the correct usage of the dictionary, and encourage its use in classroom activities targeted at younger members of the community.

Grantee. This project is led by Laura Arnold.

Laura is a British Academy post-doctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh working on Synchronic and diachronic investigations in Raja Ampat-South Halmahera, a little-known subbranch of Austronesian. For her PhD project she documented and described Ambel, an Austronesian language spoken in the Raja Ampat archipelago, Indonesia, and spent over a year living in Ambel villages. She has also worked with speakers of a range of other languages, such as Dogri, Luo, and Mee. In 2018 she wrote a FEL blog post about how our current research can tell us things about the past histories of communities. She loves the social and intellectual aspects of documentation work, and is particularly keen to help to preserve the wonderful linguistic diversity of our planet while the opportunity is still available.

FEL 2020 grant: Kinyindu song book project

This is the last grant awarded by FEL for 2020.

Overview. Kinyindu is an endangered Bantu language spoken in the Lwindi district in South Kivu, an eastern Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo by about 2,000 people. The overall objective of this project is to safeguard, strengthen and promote Nyindu indigenous cultural heritage by publishing a book of Kinyindu traditional songs. A Nyindu researcher, Kadogo Mujumbi, collected a range of songs from singers in the early 1970s and printed a draft collection with Shahidi Press based in Bukavu, however these are no longer available. This project will digitise them and make books available to younger members of the community. This work complements other revitalization activities to produce a lexical database (funded by grants from the Endangered Language Fund and Cultural Survival) and a collection of proverbs in Kinyindu (through a previous FEL grant).

Grantee. This project is led by Michel Musombwa Igunzi (in Kinyindu, Ndhashuba Michel).

Michel is a Nyindu man who grew up primarily speaking his heritage language until his family moved to a non-Nyindu area when he was 13 years old. As a result of Belgian colonial activities and killings from the 1920s many Banyindu took foreign names and joined with neighbouring communities, and as a result the language is now highly endangered with 90% of children not speaking it. Michel graduated in Social Sciences (Management and Development), and in early 2010 together with other Nyindu people created the Association for the Survival of the Nyindu Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage (ASHPAN). This Association aims to promote and revitalize Nyindu indigenous cultural values, including the language, and to support other indigenous languages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

FEL 2020 grant: Stories and literacy materials in Urhobo, Nigeria

This is the seventh grant awarded by FEL for 2020.

Overview. Urhobo is an endangered South-Western Ediod language spoken in northern Nigera. The Urhobo Studies Association has developed a 9-year basic education curriculum in a bid to revitalize the language. This is aimed at ensuring that the language is taught as a subject at primary and secondary schools where Urhobo is the local language. However, the lack of reading materials in Urhobo seems to limit all the efforts made so far. This project seeks to collect stories that are suitable for higher basic education reading material, develop them into reading materials, as well as develop questions to test comprehension of each story.

Grantee. This project is led by Emuobonuvie Maria Ajiboye

Emuobonuvie is from Oria-Abraka in Ethiope East Local Government Area, Delta State, Nigeria, and is married to a Yoruba man. She is one of the foundation members of the Urhobo Studies Association, domiciled in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Delta State University, Abraka, and served as its first secretary. She was the first staff member to be engaged by the University to teach courses in Urhobo Language and Linguistics, and has supported use of the language in football commentaries, rap music, and some aspects of information technology. . She entered Urhobo language studies via an undergraduate field assignment in her second year at the University of Benin where students were asked to collect and document oral narratives from their home villages in their native tongue, and to translate them into English. She has attended training and conferences in Africa, the US, and Germany, is a Fellow of the National African Language Resource Centre, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a Fellow of Ife Institute of Advanced Studies of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. She is currently undertaking a PhD programme in syntax and semantics at the University of Benin, focusing on a morphosyntactic study of vowel reduplication in Urhobo.

FEL 2020 grant: Blablanga orthography and literacy materials development workshop

This is the fifth in our series of posts on FEL grants awarded for 2020.

Overview. Blablanga (also called Blanga) is an endangered Oceanic language spoken by approximately 1,150 people Santa Isabel Island, in the Solomon Islands. It includes a communalect called Zazao or Kilokaka that was previously considered a different language. Blanga lacks a standardised orthography and spelling system. There have been sporadic attempts at writing it, but speakers use conventions developed for a neighboring vigorous language (Cheke Holo) which has a different phonological system. This project comes as a response to a request from the community to establish a practical and emblematic orthography, and to publish literacy materials. These would be used by children and adults to learn how to read and write in their own language, including, but not limited to, a primer, and a collection of oral literature. To prepare for this there will be a two-day workshop during which community members, chiefs, elders, catechists, teachers, youth leaders, and interested others will come together for the first time to discuss and decide on orthography and spelling issues. The FEL-funded workshop will be integrated within a larger project funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Grant, which investigates Information Structure and Intonation in Blanga.

Grantee. This project is led by Rados Voica.

Rados (or Radu) Radu (a.k.a. Rados) is a post-doctoral researcher at SOAS, University of London. He holds an MA in Language Documentation and Description and a PhD in Field Linguistics from SOAS. Between 2007 and 2010 he was an Endangered Languages Documentation Programme grantee (ELDP grants IGS0048 and IGS0048-supplement) and did fieldwork on Santa Isabel Island, Solomon Islands, where he documented Blablanga and Kilokaka, and subsequently showed that the two are varieties of a single language. Rados’ British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship involves fieldwork and analysis of Blablanga, aiming to elucidate aspects of intonation and information structure. He has also taught Descriptive Linguistics and Field Methods at SOAS. His main research interests are in language documentation, endangered languages, field linguistics and linguistic theory, information structure, syntax-semantics-pragmatics interfaces, predicate-argument relations, Role and Reference Grammar, prosody, autosegmental metrical models, historical linguistics, Austronesian languages, and Romance languages.

FEL 2020 grant: Using Northern Paiute stories as online teaching tools

This is the sixth project funded by an FEL grant in 2020.

Overview. This project aims to support revitalization efforts for Numu, or Northern Paiute. Numu is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken in the Great Basin of the United States, which includes the state of Nevada, where this project is based. The main focus is on the documentation of stories in Numu, and the development of online resources for learners based on those stories. To achieve this, we are recording, transcribing, and translating stories as told by an elder who is well-known for his storytelling and teaching. We are then using these stories to develop a set of multi-level lessons (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) that build directly from linguistic, cultural, and narrative components of the stories. In order to ensure that the stories and lessons are readily available to learners, we are creating an online website that integrates all the materials. For each story, a learner will be able to listen to the audio, read a translation, read information on vocabulary and grammar, and answer comprehension questions. In this way, this project builds on the local Indigenous community’s goal of supporting educational efforts in the language by providing additional materials for use by those interested in teaching and learning the language.

Grantee. This project is led by Ignacio Montoya.

Ignacio is an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. He earned his PhD in linguistics at the City University of New York. Prior to his postgraduate work in linguistics, he taught in a wide variety of elementary and middle school classrooms and was motivated to pursue a PhD. in linguistics in part by his experiences as an educator. As a linguist, he approaches theoretical problems from functionalist perspectives in which findings in applied fields inform theory. His current research interests include a focus on Indigenous languages of North America. Since arriving in Reno in 2018, he was been studying Numu (Northern Paiute) and has been working with members of the community to preserve and fortify it.

FEL 2020 grant: Signs and games: strategies for involving youth in the revitalization of two varieties of Mixtec

This is the fourth in our series of reports on FEL grants for 2020.

Overview. The goal of this project is to involve younger members of the communities of San Sebastián del Monte and Yucuquimi de Ocampo, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, in revitalizing their Mixtec language, and to motivate all members of the towns to do the same. The project will engage middle school and high school students in creating materials in Mixtec for the towns, in order to boost the interest of the community in preserving their language and teaching it to the younger generations. For example, they will create signs for the local health clinic showing terms for body parts and helpful information to aid older members of the community in communicating with the clinic staff. They will create signs that will be placed around town to encourage people to communicate in Mixtec, and to preserve knowledge of the traditional plants of the region and their Mixtec names. Finally, they will create games to share with other students.

Grantee. This project is led by Iara Mantenuto.

Iara is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She has been training in linguistics fieldwork for the past eight years, at Syracuse University, at UCLA, and the Institute on Collaborative Language Research (CoLang). She has worked on San Sebastián del Monte Mixtec for the past three years, and it is the subject of her dissertation. With Mr. Félix Córtes she has written an alphabet booklet for Mixtec, and they are working on an online dictionary. Iara has led three workshops in the town, dealing with language loss and identity, orthography, literacy, and tones. For the past two years she has been collaborating with Octavio León Vázquez of Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), and they have run a workshop on literacy and tones in Yucuquimi de Ocampo.