No subject

Doug Whalen whalen at ALVIN.HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 19 09:01:57 UTC 2000

Endangered Language Fund's Projects, 2000

The Endangered Language Fund, a private non-profit organization
dedicated to the preservation of endangered languages, is pleased to
announce our grant awardees for the year 2000.  Eleven projects
were funded to provide help with languages across the globe, and
with techniques ranging from traditional dictionary work to the
videotaping of interactions of native speakers and their audiences.

The Endangered Language Fund is able to provide this support thanks
to the generosity of its members.  Please contact us about how you
can help (

We would also like to thank, in particular, the Kerr Foundation of
Oklahoma for making it possible to provide additional support for
work done in Oklahoma.

Alice J. Anderton--Ponca Culture in Our Own Words

The Ponca language, of the Siouan linguistic family, is spoken in the
White Eagle tribal community, just south of Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Only about thirty fluent speakers remain, all in their 60s or older.
The Ponca Language Arts Council (PLAC) has received repeated
comments by Ponca students and teachers that they lack good
materials for teaching the Ponca language, and that the traditional
culture is being lost; the Intertribal Wordpath Society (IWS) has
been granted an award to help improve this situation.  IWS will
produce five videotaped texts describing Ponca culture in the Ponca
language. These video projects will be aired on its television show
Wordpath, a public access cable program it produces on Cox Cable
about Oklahoma Indian languages and those who preserve them.
Researcher Alice Anderton will tape the texts in the Ponca/White
Eagle area. Each VHS tape will be two hours long and contain 10-15
minutes of text in Ponca only, Ponca text with English subtitles, and
Ponca text with Ponca subtitles. A translator, in consultation with
the native speakers, will then produce a transcription and a literal
and fluent translation. These will be in the form of five booklets to
be distributed with the tapes. IWS will provide copies of the tapes
to PLAC, Frontier High School, the Ponca City Public Library and the
Endangered Language Fund.  The research will provide samples of
fully fluent conversational texts, a rarity for almost any Native
American language, and make them available to students of Ponca
and to the linguistic community for study. The tapes will document
Ponca culture, teach and popularize the new official Ponca alphabet,
and educate the general public about Ponca language and culture.

Mark J. Awakuni-Swetland--ELF Omaha Language Curriculum
Development Project

In 1994, the Omaha Tribe stated that less than 1% of its total
enrollment were identified as fluent speakers of Omaha, a Siouan
language. It is reported that less than seventy elderly speakers of
the language remain and that of these, only thirty use the language
on a daily basis in the Macy area of Nebraska.  There are several
facilities that teach Omaha, namely the Macy Public school (recently
renamed Omaha Nation Public School) and Nebraska Indian
Community College (NICC). However, all suffer from the lack of a
systematic curriculum and classroom materials.  The present
project is part of a larger collaborative effort to combat this
problem. It will support the development of language and culture
lesson plans, immersion situations, and language exercises, drawing
upon existing materials from NICC and Omaha Nation. The materials
will be examined for linguistic and cultural content, placed into a
larger four semester framework, and edited for content and
consistency. New lessons will be generated to link and augment
existing lessons. Funds will be shared equally with the NICC and
Omaha Nation, so as to bring direct benefit to the larger Omaha
community at the K-12 and post-secondary levels.

Melissa Axelrod, Jule Gomez de Garcia, and Jordan Lachler-
-Plains Apache Language Documentation

The Plains Apaches, formally known as the Apache Tribe of
Oklahoma, are centered in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Plains Apache is one
of the Apachean group of Athabaskan languages, and is part of the Na
Dene family.  Today, there are only three elderly people who still
speak it.  Tribal leaders formed a committee in 1993 to help
preserve their cultural and linguistic heritage. The primary aim of
the project was to produce documentation of the language, chiefly in
the form of an interactive CD ROM dictionary. Axelrod, Garcia, and
Lachler will act as consultants in completing the dictionary. In
addition, they will continue research to aid the Plains Apache in
language documentation. Their project will include a dictionary, a
grammar, the videotaping of elders, and the publication of oral
history and folklore. However, timing is urgent. Since their last
visit, two of the most fluent Plains Apache speakers have passed

Frank Bechter and Stephen Hibbard--Apsaalooke Textual
And Gestural Form: Videorecording Crow and Plains Sign
Talk Narratives

The Crow language is spoken by roughly 4,000 people in southeastern
Montana (about half the registered Crow population), while only 10%
of the Crow children are acquiring the language today. Traditionally,
most Crow speakers would also be fluent in "Plains Sign Talk" (PST),
a manual semiotic code that was once a lingua franca among the
Plains Indian nations. It is clearly moribund, with probably fewer
than 100 proficient speakers, all elderly. We now have one last
chance to see how conventions in PST may have affected storytelling
ad other techniques in spoken Crow.  Bechter and Hibbard will
collect traditional and non-traditional narratives in Crow and PST,
recorded in font of Crow-speaking audiences. Gestural forms (if not
PST forms) will be seen in informal discourse as well. Crow
consultants will aid in producing Crow transcriptions and English
translations of narratives.  The project will not only benefit
researchers, but will aid in language preservation and revitalization
projects.  Copies will be available at the Crow Agency Bilingual
Education Program, the Language Archives at the University of
Chicago, and the Endangered Language Fund.

Barry F. Carlson and Suzanne Cook--Lacandon Text

Lacandon is currently spoken by a dwindling population of Mayas.
Their ancestry has been obscured by the absence of a written
tradition, and their primary source of culture, the Lacandon story-
teller, has been threatened by the influence of modern media such as
television. As the remaining story-tellers grow older and fewer, the
state of the Lacandon traditional culture is in increasing jeopardy.
Carlson and Cook will record traditional narratives, songs, and
ceremonies in the northern community of Naja in Mexico. Personal
narratives and conversations will also be recorded to document the
full range of Lacandon use.  The audio and video recordings will help
preserve the Lacandon oral culture against further loss and provide
materials for possible future language renewal projects. The
research will augment earlier grammatical information, while
adding the new dimension of audio/video analysis of oral
performance previously unstudied by linguists. In addition, the oral
performances may be compiled into a collection of Lacandon texts.
These performances will add to the growing body of research on
Native American ethnopoetics.

G. Tucker Childs and M Djibril Batchily--Fieldwork on
Mmani (Atlantic, Niger-Congo), a dying language of coastal

Mmani is the northernmost language of the Bullom family of the Mel
sub-group of languages, belonging to the Atlantic Group Niger-Congo.
Its speakers are located on the southernmost coast of Guinea near
the Sierra Leone border. Investigation has revealed that there are
several villages of speakers on the islands off the coast, as well,
one of which is now accessible by ferry.  Mmani is geographically
surrounded by Susu (a distantly related language) and
interpenetrated with Temne (a related language). There are very few
speakers left, none under 60 years old.  Childs believes that Mmani
is at least a widely divergent dialect of Bullom, if not a separate
language. Currently there is no work being done on the language, and
previous research has yielded little documentation and no sound
recordings.  Childs and Batchily plan to make recordings, digitizing
the speech for archiving, accumulating a word list and different
discourse types, and sketching a grammar. The investigation of
Mmani will chronicle a once distinct language and culture, and it
will contribute to a greater understanding of the Atlantic group of
languages as a whole.

Terry Crowley--Moribund languages of northern Malakula

The island of Malakula, the second largest island in the Republic of
Vanuatu in the southwestern Pacific, currently holds over two dozen
separate Oceanic languages spoken by a population of under 30,000
in total. In spite of this linguistic diversity, the original number of
languages is thought to have been much higher.  Crowley recently
discovered that the Langalanga and Marakhus languages, assumed to
be extinct, do in fact have a small number of speakers remaining. In
addition, a previously unreported language originally spoken in the
Khabtol area of central Malakula also has a small number of
speakers. These languages are only spoken by older members of the
community, who speak other local vernaculars as their primary
languages; they are not being passed on to younger generations. This
is our last chance to record them so that descendants may
appreciate, in part, what has been lost.

Linda A. Cumberland--A Grammar of Assiniboine

Cumberland plans to develop a descriptive grammar of Assiniboine, a
Siouan language of the northern plains, now only spoken by a small
number of elders in Saskatchewan and Montana. The grammar will
focus on phonology, morphology, syntax, and usage, including
gendered speech, register, and generational and regional variation.
The goal of the project is to provide a broad description of the major
grammatical processes of Assiniboine that will serve as a resource
for the Assiniboine communities in Canada and the U.S. in their
language revitalization programs. Currently only 130 out of a total
population of 3500 are fluent speakers, and most are over the age of
seventy. There are at least three centers actively attempting to
revitalize the language. However, no systematic description of the
grammar exists.

Theodore IshamLanguage--Immersion Camps in Mvskoke

Immersion in a language environment is one of the most successful
techniques in language learning.  Isham, of the Mvskoke Language
Institute in Oklahoma, used a grant from the ELF to start a program
with current members of the Muscogee Nation.  Workshops were held
in the summer of 2000, involving language learners at all levels and
ages.  The immersion program used as many media as were
available--audio recordings, videotapes, written material and
cultural material.  It is hoped that the immersion camps will create
a better environment for the use of the language by a larger number
of casual users, and eventually the acquisition of the language by
young children.  Further, videotapes of the older generation speaking
in the heritage language will be treasured by their descendants for
even more generations.

Linda Jordan and Leslie. D. Hannah--Cherokee Storytelling

The Cherokees comprise the largest Native American group in North
America. It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000
native speakers of Cherokee, mostly in Oklahoma.  Cherokee is not
considered in imminent danger of extinction, but it is threatened, as
the majority of speakers are elders. There is pressure on children
who do possess the language to acquire primary fluency in English.
There is a need for sophisticated, text-based materials for both
older children and adults who are striving to recover their language.
Ideally, these texts will be grounded within the history and culture
of the Cherokee community.  Jordan and Hannah will address this
need through the recording of storytelling in Cherokee. The
researchers plan to provide materials that incorporate recordings, a
substantial text in both the Syllabary and Cherokee phonetics, an
artful translation into English, word-by-word translation into
English, close morphological analysis, minimal discourse analysis,
and separate grammars specific to each story. The materials will be
compiled with frequent consultation with the Cherokee community.
Copies will be made of all materials for deposit in the Vaughan
library of Northeastern State University, other public facilities in
Eastern Oklahoma, and the offices of the Endangered Languages Fund
at Yale University.

Eva Toulouze and Kaur Maegi--Recording and Analyzing
Forest Nenets Language Materials

The Forest Nenets are a semi-nomadic group of people inhabiting
northern Russia. They have no written language and little linguistic
description, and although clearly related to their more northern
neighbors, the Tundra Nenets, their language differs enough to deny
mutual understanding. The Forest Nenets are not recognized
officially as a single ethnic group, and their territory has been
occupied by the oil industry. As a result, the language and culture
are seriously threatened.  Only a few elders have a rich knowledge of
both everyday language and traditional oral folklore. The middle-
aged population uses Nenets at home, but little is passed on to the
young.  Since Forest Nenets is only marginally known in the academic
community, Toulouze and Maegi plan to concentrate on collection of
language materials and establishment of a scientifically based
orthography. The latter will be used in the community in hopes of
stimulating more interest in the language and culture.  They will
record folklore, as well as spontaneous daily conversation, in two
regions of Russia: the Agan and Num-to regions.

   Doug Whalen  (whalen at
   Haskins Laboratories
   270 Crown St.
   New Haven, CT  06511
   203-865-6163, ext. 234
   FAX:  203-865-8963

Endangered-Languages-L Forum: endangered-languages-l at
Web pages
Subscribe/unsubscribe and other commands: majordomo at

More information about the Endangered-languages-l mailing list