Past Activites


Spring 2008

Marine Vuillermet, UCSB Visiting Scholar

Topic: Ese Ejja, a Tacanan language of South America

Date: Tuesday, May 6 2008
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Chafe/Mithun residence

Ese Ejja is a Tacanan language spoken both in Peru and in Bolivia by around 1000 speakers. I started my fieldwork with speakers in Bolivia in 2005, for my Master's thesis. I wrote about the sociolinguistic profile and the phonetics and phonology of the language. I spent 7 months in Bolivia (SOAS-HRELP Field Trip Grant) in my first year of PhD work. For the NAIL meeting, I would like to present the argument coding in this ergative Amazonian language; I hope for helpful comments on an interesting double-absolutive constuction I will emphasize during the presentation.

Megan Lukaniec, UCSB Visiting Scholar

Topic: Project Yawenda, a revitalization project for the Huron-Wendat language (Iroquoian) in Quebec

Date: Tuesday, April 22 2008
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Chafe/Mithun residence

Huron-Wendat is an Iroquoian language that was spoken in southern Ontario and Québec until the late 19th century. In 2007, the Huron-Wendat Nation, in collaboration with Université Laval, was granted funding for a language revitalization project spanning over five years. At the end of these five years, Project Yawenda plans to teach the Wendat language to children in the tribal elementary school. As we are nearing the end of the first year of the project, I would like to discuss with the group some of the project's goals and recent progress. As one of the project researchers, I would also like to present some of the inevitable challenges facing our community due to resource constraints as well as internal social and political dynamics.

Fall 2007

"Welcome Back" meeting

Date: Thursday, October 11, 2007
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Chafe/Mithun residence

At this meeting we will welcome our new members to NAIL, and catch up with old friends after a productive summer. Graduate students Joye Kiester and Andrea Berez will give short presentations about their summer fieldwork in Mexico and Alaska.

Martha Macri, Professor, University of California Davis
Department of Native American Studies
Rumsey Endowed Chair of California Indian Studies
Director, Native American Language Center

Nahuatl in Ancient Mesoamerica:
When Did It Begin? How Do We Know? Why Does It Matter?

Date: Friday, November 9, 2007
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: GSA Lounge, above Multicultural Center

Evidence for the presence of a Uto-Aztecan language closely related to Nahuatl in ancient Mesoamerica continues to build. An examination of Nahua words represented in Maya hieroglyphic texts is followed by consideration of the implications of such a presence, and the reasons given for continued objections against it. The consequences of an early Nahua presence calls into question conclusions about the prehistory of Mesoamerican languages that are based on the intuition of linguists, and, however much this may be denied, on glottochronology.

Jean Mulder, Professor, Melbourne University

Topic: Clitics in Sm'algyax: Approaching theory from the field

Date: Monday, November 26, 2007
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: McCune Conference Room, HHSB 6th floor

Sm'algyax (British Columbia and Alaska) is a highly ergative VSO language with an uncommonly wide range of clitics. This talk has the twofold function of demonstrating how Anderson's (2005) constraint- based analysis of clitics gives insight into the complex behaviour of Sm'algyax clitics, and how the Sm'algyax clitics themselves afford empirical means of testing such a theory.

Building on Stebbin's (2003) definitions of intermediate word classes in Sm'algyax, this talk utilizes, and extends somewhat, Anderson's Optimality Theoretical approach. Drawing on Sm'algyax texts from field research and published sources, it is demonstrated that in terms of their varying phonological dependence, Sm'algyax clitics include internal clitics, phonological word clitics, and affixal clitics. The existence of affixal clitics in Sm'algyax calls into question the viability of the Strict Layer Hypothesis (Selkirk 1984) and adds empirical support to Anderson's arguments for describing such clitics via ranked constraints rather than inviolable rules.

Conversely, Sm'algyax clitics contradict Anderson's analysis of the direction of clitic attachment as being language specific and instead support Klavans' (1985) view that it is clitic specific. With the exception of one clitic set, which has variable attachment specific to clitics within the set, the direction of attachment in Sm'algyax is specific to sets of clitics; internal clitics all attach to the left as enclitics, whilst affixal and phonological word clitics all attach to the right as proclitics. Further, unlike Anderson's findings for Kwakwala, Sm'algyax allows topicalisation of NPs containing clitics with leftward Stray Adjunction, thereby challenging Anderson's postulate that this phenomenon precludes topicalisation.


A reference grammar of Wappo. Sandra Thompson, Professor of Linguistics at UCSB. Professor Thompson presented the new Reference Grammar of Wappo, which she co-wrote with Joseph Sung-Yul Park and Charles N. Li. Sandy discussed her work on the language, focusing on her relationship with consultant Laura Fish Somersaul. The new grammar is published by the UC Press and is available for download here.

Expectations and results of community-based technology training in Alaska. Alan Boraas, Professor of Anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, Alaska, and Andrea Berez, graduate student, Department of Linguistics, UCSB. Dr. Boraas and Andrea Berez spoke about the history and culture of the Dena'ina Athabaskans of southcentral Alaska, and an initiative to train community language workers in language technology.

What shall we tell Mike? Professor Chafe led a discussion about the choices available to an ethnographer who is setting up a computer system specifically for his work.

Elizabeth Shipley gave a presentation on California Indian basketmaking and its place in native American culture (focusing on the Pomo.) We had a screening of the award-winning documentary Pomo Basketweavers: A Tribute to Three Elders, which chronicles the changes in Pomo basketry after first contact with non-Indians and includes biographical portraits of three renowned Pomo basketweavers: Laura Somersal, Elsie Allen, and Mabel McKay.

Alex Walker, graduate student in linguistics at UCSB, presented his work in progress on a dictionary of Kashaya Pomo. This was followed by a group discussion of dictionary-making, including methodology and software issues.

What is the role of a linguist in Indidenous Language Communities? A case study from Aboriginal Australia. Sophie Nicholls, visiting scholar from the University of New England, Australia. Sophie Nicholls discussed her experiences in the field, exploring issues of cross-cultural communication and the competing ideologies of academic linguistics and traditional language speakers. What can be done to bridge the cultural and linguistic divide between academic linguists and communities of indigenous language speakers? Central to this goal is the practice of integrating the rights of language communities, as well as recognizing and analyzing language as a living tool of social interaction and cultural maintenance.


Community relations between native and non-native academics and community members. A general discussion of the relationships between researchers and members of the communities being researched. Students and faculty present their fieldwork experiences with different communities. In addition, different approaches to fieldwork will be discussed. Readings will include articles from Paul Newman and Martha Ratliff eds, Linguistic Fieldwork.

Conducting fieldwork on Native Mexican Languages in the US and in Mexico. A discussion on the possibilities and limitations of conducting fieldwork on Native Mexican languages and cultures in communities established in the United States. Related issues: a) finding consultants in the US and building contacts for fieldwork in Mexico; b) legal issues when working with consultants in the US and in Mexico; c) type of data that can be gathered in the US; d) funding possibilities for this type of work.

Ethnopoetics: The narrative and poetic style of Native Americans. This topic will include: Native American poetry, verbal traditions, and the characteristics of Native American oral epics and mythology. Discussions will focus on narrative style in Native American languages, how to combine linguistic, anthropological, and discourse analysis, and where/how to obtain Native American texts. Readings for discussion will include: a) Dell Hymes, 2003, How I know only so far; b) Dell Hymes, 1981, In Vain I tried to tell you; c) Ofelia Zepeda, Home Places: Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks; d) Ofelia Zepeda, South Corner of Time: Hopi, Navajo, Papago, Yaqui tribal literature.

Language loss and maintenance in Native American communities. Presentation of a few case studies. Schooling in Native American languages: advantages and disadvantages. Current state and federal laws on bilingual education and tribal education. Laws and practices in other countries, such as Mexico.

The creation of language instruction materials for Native American languages. Discussion will focus on ‘How to apply current methodologies in Applied Linguistics to Native American communities’, ‘What kind of instruction materials are useful and can be created’, ‘Collaboration with and tutoring of teachers of Native American languages’. Readings include: Leanne Hinton, How to keep your language alive.

New media and data collection/instruction materials. Development of webbased instruction materials. The inclusion of video data for data collection and in the development of instruction materials. Readings to be determined. This discussion is aimed to include practical tips for researcher who would like to use the web or video data for data collection and the creation of instruction materials.

Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights. At this meeting we will discuss questions such as a) What are cultural and intellectual property rights and how should we deal with them?, b) How to work with communities with regard to cultural and intellectual property rights - what might be their and our major concerns, and c) What are some major concerns of academic and/or funding institutions with regard to cultural and intellectual property rights? [handout]

Different approaches to fieldwork I. At this meeting Carmen Jany will present topics from Linguistic Fieldwork, Paul Newman and Martha Radcliff eds, a very nice book with many interesting articles reflecting a variety of fieldwork experiences, and will also have some discussion questions ready. In addition, we may talk about relationships between researchers and members of the communities being researched in general. Everyone is invited to present his or her fieldwork experiences and to bring in questions and issues for discussion. Furthermore, Dan Hintz will talk about his fieldwork experiences in Peru. [handout]

Different approaches to fieldwork II and fieldwork funding options. At this meeting we will continue discussing topics from Linguistic Fieldwork, Paul Newman and Martha Radcliff eds, a very nice book with many interesting articles reflecting a variety of fieldwork experiences. In addition, we will discuss funding options for fieldwork (Carmen Jany will assemble a list of funding sources including deadlines, type of project that can get funding, etc). Furthermore, we will discuss and create a sample budget to go with a project proposal. [handout]

Do all languages have adjectives? The question of whether a grammatically defined class of adjectives is present in all languages has come to the forefront recently through independent suggestions of R.M.W. Dixon and Mark Baker, both of whom have proposed that adjectives are universal. Professor Wally Chafe begins by showing how well-defined the adjective class is in the Caddo language before turning to the Northern Iroquoian languages (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora), which provide a good test of the universality of adjectives because they are far from obvious in these languages. [handout]

Special Event: William Shipley, Professor Emeritus, UC Santa Cruz. Maidu myths: The challenges of translation.

From Dr. Shipley's abstract:

"My fieldwork with Mountain Maidu started in the summer of 1954, while I was a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. My teacher was a marvellous lady, then in her sixties, named Maym Gallagher. She was perfectly bilingual and fluent in both Maidu and English; we came to be loving friends.

My field research was supported by the Department of Linguistics at Berkeley under the direction of Mary Haas. Both she and Professor Kroeber were on my dissertation committee. The dissertation itself was a grammar of Mountain Maidu, eventually published in 1964.

During the second year of my fieldwork, I took a copy of Roland Dixon's volume of Maidu myths, published in 1912, up to Maidu-land. Dixon was a student of Franz Boas' at a time when phonetics and phonology were not well understood by American scholars. He was an enthusiastic ethnographer, doing his best to record what he heard. Maym and I looked over his efforts and reconstituted some of the stories into accurate Maidu text. After Maym died, in the late '70s, I looked at the rest of Dixon's texts and found that I was able to accurately reconstitute them on my own.

The most difficult aspect of the whole project was deciding how to translate this wonderful material. The myths were collected around 1900 from a remarkable storyteller named Hánc'ibyjim. How he and Dixon managed to collaborate successfully on transcribing the stories with no recording equipment remains, for me, a mystery, especially considering the elegant and masterfully complex nature of the storyteller's grammar.

There are now, alas, only three old ladies in their nineties who still speak Mountain Maidu so that the language is, in practical terms, extinct. This makes Dixon's collection even more valuable. Preserved within it are potent traces of a people -- their stories, narrative skills, poetry, conversation, and humor -- now gone forever. I believe that my work has gone some way towards making this material available once again to the world. My task has been to combine the integrity and scholarly precision of a linguist, with the art and aesthetic sense of a storyteller. The process has been fascinating. I hope the result does justice, as far as possible, to the Mountain Maidu people who made these myths."

Special event: Ophelia Zepeda, Professor, University of Arizona. More than just words: Impact of US language policy on American Indian language revitalization.

This presentation will consider language policy activity in the U.S. in the 1980's and 1990's in particular English Only initiatives at the state and national level. There will be primary focus on The Native American Languages Act (NALA) 1990 & 1992 and the impact it has had on the survival and preservation of American Indian languages. NALA has been a primary factor in creating an awareness of the status of American Indian languages as endangered. This legislation designated some of the initial funding to Native populations for language revitalization. This critical piece of policy helped to create self-awareness and promoted self-evaluation regarding language among U.S. Indigenous populations --- all of which has resulted in what some have considered "best practices" towards Language revitalization.

Ofelia Zepeda is a member of the Tohono O'odham nation as well as a poet and linguist. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona where she is now a professor of linguistics. She also co-founded and now directs the American Indian Language Development Institute, an annual summer institute for American Indian Teachers. Professor Zepeda has actively helped her tribe to improve literacy and she is the author of the only pedagogical textbook on the Tohono O'odham language, A Papago Grammar. She is also a poet in her native O'odham language and has published several books (Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert 1995; Jewed 'I-hoi/Earth Movement) as well as poems in numerous anthologies. Ofelia Zepeda is considered the foremost authority in Tohono O'odham language and literature. On the professional level, she co-chairs the Planning Symposium on Endangered Languages of the Americas (IPOLA) in Santa Fe, NM, and she is an Executive Board member of the National Museum of the American Indian, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution.


Carmen Jany, UCSB Department of Linguistics. John Peabody Harrington (1884-1961). A presentation of the life and work of the famous linguist and linguistic anthropologist John Peabody Harrington whose lifelong efforts to collect data of endangered Native American languages (including Chumash) resulted in the sole documentation of many now extinct languages. [handout]

Diane Hintz, UCSB Department of Linguistics. Types of data; how to get it; usefulness; cautions. A fascinating summary of field experiences in the Quechua community with many useful tips on data collection and fieldwork. [handout]

General discussion on Endangered languages as a hot topic. [handout 1] Carmen Jany, UCSB Department of Linguistics, leading discussion and presentation of several articles: a) Michael Krauss. 1992. ‘The world’s languages in crisis’, Language 68,1; b) Article in The Economist, January 2005, Babel runs backwards; c) other related materials. Prof. Wallace Chafe, UCSB Department of Linguistics, Robbing America of a Rich Heritage. We will also assemble a list 'How to argue for Language Endangerment'. [handout 2]

General discussion on How can the fieldworker serve the community and other linguists. Presentations by: a) Carmen Jany, UCSB Department of Linguistics, General introduction and presentation of the DOBES documentation program; b) Marilyn Notah, UCSB Department of Religious Studies, Fieldwork in the Navajo community – permission, ethics, and legal issues; c) Diane Hintz, UCSB Department of Linguistics, Fieldwork in the Quechua community, documentation, and instruction materials; d) Wallace Chafe, UCSB Department of Linguistics, A Seneca dictionary project. [handout]


Diane Hintz, UCSB Department of Linguistics. Working with speakers, working with the community.[handout]

General discussion on archiving and data durability based on an LSA Symposium entitled Endangered Data vs Enduring Practice: Creating Linguistic Resources That Last.

Jean Mulder, University of Melbourne. Morphological Ergativity and Transitivity in Sm'algyax (Coast Tsimshian).


Jeanie Castillo, UCSB Department of Linguistics. Discussion of Jane Hill’s Article: Hill, Jane. 2002. "Expert Rhetorics" in Advocacy for Endangered Languages: Who Is Listening, and What Do They Hear. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 12(2). 119-133.

Wallace Chafe, UCSB Department of Linguistics. Learning To Spell.

Fernando Zúñiga, University of Leipzig. Aspectuality in Mapudungun Kawésqar.

Françoise Rose, Lyon. A shift in dependency-marking: from Proto-Tupi-Guarani to Emérillon.

Violet Bianco, UCSB Department of Linguistics. Long Vowels in Cowichan-Halkomelem (and other Salish Languages??).