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.

FEL 2020 grant: Documenting mumuh, traditional singing storytelling in Lun Bawang, Sarawak

This is the third in the series of reports on projects funded by FEL in 2020.

Overview. In many societies, storytelling has been the main method of transmitting knowledge inter-generationally. Mumuh is a traditional method of storytelling in the form of recited songs among the Lun Bawang people of Sarawak. Apart from the language itself being endangered, the performance of mumuh is also a dying art. After searching for singers, I was told that there is one elderly lady called Ina Ladu who lives in Long Semadoh settlement, Lawas division of Sarawak, East Malaysia, who is still able to sing mumuh. This project will document performances of mumuh with her. Note that mumuh contains not only a lesser-known form of melody but also archaic lexical items. The project will also train one local participant to continue recording other traditional songs and stories in Lun Bawang.

Grantee. This project is led by Jey Lingam Burkhardt.

Jey lectures in English and Communication Skills at the Centre for English Language Studies, Sunway University, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She received her MA in Applied Linguistics from Charles Darwin University, Australia, and has worked with language development projects in mother-tongue literacy, orthography development, and training of trainers among various minority language communities in Sarawak. Her research interests are Borneo studies, discourse analysis, language documentation and description, and self-regulated learning in higher education. She has recently co-authored a paper entitled Then and now: changes in social organisation and livelihood of the Berawan community since the formation of Malaysia.

FEL 2020 grant: The collaborative documentation, development, and publication of a Chone Tibetan story book

This is the second in a series of posts on the grants awarded by FEL for 2020.

Overview. The Chone Tibetan language is a local variety of Tibetan spoken in Chone County, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu Province, China. It has become marginalized, stigmatized, and subjugated due to two main factors: the promotion of the national language, Mandarin Chinese, since the 1950s, and the spread of the regional standard language, Amdo Tibetan, since the 1980s. As a result, the number of the Chone Tibetan speakers has now fallen to around 3,000, and is continuing to shrink dramatically. The aim of this project is to audio-record and document local spoken Chone Tibetan oral literature, develop a story book, and distribute it among community members. The story book will be presented in three languages: Chone Tibetan (the heritage language), Mandarin Chinese (the national language), and English (the second language in schools). In doing so, it will help Chone Tibetans to be exposed to their heritage language, and raise their awareness towards the value of it for expressing local linguistic and cultural identity.

Grantee. This project is led by Bendi Tso.

Bendi is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include linguistic identities, documentation of oral tradition, and language revitalization. Her current research examines language shift of Chone Tibetans in relation to their Tibetan identity formation and social imagination. With Mark Turin she has co-authored a paper Speaking Chone, Speaking ‘Shallow’: Dual Linguistic Hegemonies in China’s Tibetan Frontier.

FEL 2020 grant: Development of Northern Pomo language revitalization camps

This post is the first in a series on the grants awarded by FEL for 2020.

Overview. This project focuses on the development of Northern Pomo language revitalization camps in order to expand efforts to revitalize what is now a dormant language that was traditionally spoken north of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding Clear Lake in northern California . Although the last speaker passed away in 2005, there is still a community who identifies with the language and wishes to learn and revitalize it. However, given the lack of speakers, documentation records, such as audio recordings, play an even more central role in the process of language revitalization. There are four main foci of this project, which are informed by our past endeavors: (1) developing activities and games for all ages, ranging from younger children to Elders, (2) integrating digital technology in effective and appropriate ways, (3) incorporating traditional stories and texts into language revitalization, and (4) exploring the effects of the language revitalization camps.

Grantee: The project is led by Edwin Ko.

Edwin is a Linguistics Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis (equivalent to a minor) in Language Revitalization. His research focuses on Northern Pomo and Crow, which are indigenous languages of California and Montana. He also serves as a co-organizer of Berkeley’s Fieldwork Forum and the 40th Siouan and Caddoan Languages Conference, and as a Graduate Research Associate at Berkeley’s Social Science Matrix.

FEL 2020 grants awarded

The Foundation for Endangered Languages has just awarded eight grants worth US$7,570 for 2020. The awards cover projects in Mexico, USA, China, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, and Congo with a focus on revitalisation work, including story and song book publication, youth engagement, orthography and literacy development, and online teaching materials production. There is a full listing of the grants awarded on our website. Congratulations to all the successful applicants.

Note that members of FEL with a current subscription of any type may apply in future grant rounds. If you are not yet a member then please join before applying (see our Membership page). Priority is given to projects that focus on the revitalisation of an endangered language and/or support the use of an endangered language in its community. In general, we award up to US $1,000 for successful proposals. Proposals for smaller amounts may have a better chance of receiving funding.