June 29, 2011

Reviving languages through texting

ITTO:  Teenagers Revive Dead Languages Through Texting

By Margaret RockSamuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City, found young people in southern Chile producing hip-hop videos and posting them on YouTube using Huilliche, a language on the brink of extinction.

Herrera also discovered teens in the Philippines and Mexico who think it's "cool" to send text messages in regional endangered languages like Kapampangan and Huave.

Almost as soon as text messaging exploded on the world stage as a means to reach anyone, anywhere, and anytime, young people began to find a way to scale it back, make it more exclusive and develop their own code or doublespeak to use on the widely-used devices.

Shorthand and abbreviations became a popular way to keep the "inside joke" of LOL, or "laughing out loud," and brb, or "be right back," within the circle. In time, though, these catchphrases reached a broader audience, losing their cache and exclusivity. As soon as its use became widespread and commercial, the code was no longer "cool."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Cherokee on the iPhone.

June 24, 2011

National Native Language Revitalization Summit

Summit celebrates native languages

By Nakia ZavallaOrganized by Cultural Survival, a proud member of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, this annual summit’s 2011 goal was to convene language advocates at the Library of Congress and engage every one of the 62 members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with Native language revitalization success stories.

As a tribe that has established a language reclamation project, our story is an important one to share. It demonstrates that a tribe can take a language that is near extinction and revitalize it for current and future generations to enjoy. We showed how investing tribal resources in our language revitalization efforts will help our tribal nation’s future.

The National Native Language Revitalization Summit relied both on the expert recommendations of national tribal policy organizations and on the local knowledge and recommendations of hundreds of grassroots tribal language programs like ours.

With scarcely 139 spoken Native languages remaining in the United States—and 70 of those spoken fluently only by the very elderly—the summit organizers believed it was important to act immediately to increase the limited federal support available for the nearly 600 tribal nations with a stake in revitalizing indigenous languages.

June 23, 2011

Camp teaches all things Ojibwe

Language camp teaches more than words

By Jana PetersonThis weekend’s Nagaajiwanaang language camp in Sawyer promises more than Ojibwe vocabulary words and spelling lessons. The four-day camp itself will be a lesson in all things Ojibwe, from attitude to native crafts to cooking Indian corn soup with ashes, plus canoe races and other contests that teach skills valued by the traditional Ojibwe culture.

It’s the third year for the camp, which organizers say fills a need in the American Indian community in northern Minnesota and beyond.

“There is a thirst for the language,” said Pat Northrup of Sawyer, one of the driving forces behind the camp. “I hear people in the community more in the last few years–since Fond du Lac made Ojibwe the official reservation language–talking about ‘what’s the word for this,’ learning the language. We’re providing resources.”

In addition to having a total of seven fluent speakers of Ojibwe, the camp will have language books for sale for the first time. There will be designated locations where only Ojibwe is spoken, and other activities–like Arne Vainio’s Mad Science presentations–at which an Ojibwe speaker will translate the English spoken by the presenter.

June 15, 2011

Indigenous tweets

Tweet Hereafter:  Social Media Is Saving Native Languages

By Doug MeigsKevin Scannell is a 40-year-old Irish American working in Saint Louis University’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. He says online tools of globalization have created positive opportunities equal or greater than their dangers. In March, he created IndigenousTweets.com, a website that aims to preserve and proliferate indigenous language by connecting Twitter users online. “The Internet is also a tool that we can use to combat globalization and colonization,” says Scannell. “The important thing is for people to use their language if they want it to survive. The Internet—websites like Twitter and Facebook, blogs and e-mail—give people an opportunity to write and chat and be creative while using their language in a natural way.”

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to write and read short text messages called “tweets.” Each tweet is limited to 140 characters. Scannell’s website aggregates Twitter users who write in minority languages. He started with a list of 35 languages, which grew to almost 100 within two months. Twitter users can go to his website, view a list of other users writing in their own Native language, request to “follow” individuals, and then begin receiving their tweets.

IndigenousTweets.com began when Scannell wrote a computer program to cross-reference Twitter messages with statistical data for minority languages. His website names languages by their Native names. For example, Navajo is listed as Diné bizaad, i.e., “Navajo language.” Click into the language and relevant Twitter users are listed on a second screen. The site then ranks Twitterers based on various criteria, such as number of tweets and percentage written in the language.

In addition to Navajo, other North American indigenous languages on the website include Delaware/Lenape, Lakota, Inuktitut, Mi’kmaq/Micmac and Secwepemctsín. IndigenousTweets.com features a cornucopia of minority languages worldwide, including some nearly extinct languages such as Gamilaraay from eastern Australia (the website notes one Twitter user who wrote a single tweet in Gamilaraay).

June 10, 2011

Oklahoma Breath of Life

American Indian language program receives $90K grant

By Darla SlipkLast summer, Hopper attended an intensive, weeklong program called Oklahoma Breath of Life—Silent no More. The workshop, hosted at the University of Oklahoma’s Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, was designed to give participants the tools they need to help revitalize American Indian languages that are endangered.

Organizers have received a $90,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue the program.
University helps American Indians learn to save their languages

The Breath of Life project is a joint effort by experts from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Oklahoma in which linguists mentor American Indians so they can better recover endangered languages.

By Diane Smith
Fields is a participant in the Breath of Life project—a joint effort by experts from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Oklahoma—in which linguists mentor American Indians so they can better recover endangered languages.

It is modeled after a project at the University of California, Berkeley.

"We are growing field linguists," said Colleen Fitzgerald, associate professor and chairwoman of UT Arlington's Linguistics Department. "We are transferring knowledge to community members so they can teach their own languages."
And:Besides training American Indian community members to be linguists on the ground, UT Arlington will be working to create linguistic databases that will ultimately enable the creation of online dictionaries and collections of texts in various languages, Fitzgerald said.

Each community will have a database which will also be stored in a repository at the Noble museum.