Many question why pressure on our world’s language diversity matters — wouldn’t it be easier if we all used the same language? Is wanting to maintain languages spoken by a handful of people just a romantic notion proclaimed by anthropologists? As a linguist and language activist who works daily with language sustainability, through the non-profit Wikitongues, I assert the opposite: language diversity is not only important for users of Indigenous and minoritized languages, but also for every person across the globe. Yes, even those of us who grew up monolingual, speaking a global lingua franca (such as myself!*) …
Thank you to Daniel Bögre Udell for providing the history of the Tunica language and reclamation movement. This post stems from our recent panel session at RightsCon and pulls from multiple interviews and conversations. If you participated in RightsCon online 2020, you can watch the full recording of the session here.
Perhaps the greatest challenge that minoritized language communities face is cultural displacement by a dominant language. Without institutional support, minoritized languages are gradually restricted to the private sphere; without the expectation that they can be used as primary languages in public, speakers struggle to find one another. The rise…
*Specifically about the Northeast Alabama variety of Smoky Mountain English, since that’s where I’m from.
I was born in Alabama and I didn’t think anything was wrong with my language. I pronounced “mountain” as “mounain” (linguistically known as consonant clutter reduction), I said “falling” as “fallin” (g-dropping from the end of infinitive verbs — see music video below from the country music GOAT), and if I pronounced the words “pen” and “pin”, well, you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference (these are known as vowel mergers). I used “y’all” as a pronoun and referred to a group of people…
As a linguist, one of the common questions I receive is about the “click languages”. This isn’t the most frequent of questions — that’s reserved for, “So how many languages do you speak?!” (note: a linguist and a polyglot are two separate things, and yes, many fabulous linguists are monolingual!) and “Oh no, please don’t correct my grammar”, accompanied by some teasing laughter (note: we are extremely supportive of you using your language as you want and keeping ourselves distanced from the grammar police of social media). But after all of that, I often find myself discussing the click languages.
Here is a collection of blog posts we published this past month. Thanks to our interns for this wonderful work!
In British Columbia, where the Harrison and Fraser Rivers meet, live the Sq’éwlets, a tribe of the Stó:lō people, who call themselves Sqwōwich — People of the Sturgeon. On a website, through the Virtual Museum of Canada, they share their story — from long ago up through the present — in their own way, and with the words of their own language.
A journey into our heritage and the desire for a place to let a piece of one’s heart rest
My mom called me the other day, just completely bored, restless. Her and my father are going into week three of their quarantine and she’s someone who thrives off of movement and energy and being outdoors. We have always enjoyed doing activities together: we try new crafts every time I visit, we read books together, we have been creating an outdoor table for the past five years that is going to be an amazing culmination of stories…whenever we finish it.
This video was recorded in Räni, Tartumaa, Estonia by Oliver Loode and Kristen Tcherneshoff, through a partnership with the URALIC Centre. Sulev, a linguist at the Võro Institute and the University of Tartu, discusses the history of his language in this Wikitongues oral history, along with the differences between Võro and Estonian.
The full transcript and English translation can be found here:
No tereq! Mu nimi um Sullõv ja ma olõ võro keele kõnõlõja.
Well, hello! My name is Sullõv and I am a speaker of the Võro language.
Ja maq olõ esiq Võromaalt peri kah
I myself am from…
The United Nations declared this year as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, a year dedicated to increasing understanding, awareness, integration, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas related to Indigenous languages, whether that be digitally, culturally, pedagogically, or politically.
Do you want to get involved with the International Year of Indigenous Languages? Here are some easy initial steps!
On Monday, January 28th, our world’s first International Year dedicated to Indigenous Languages was launched from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris, France. Every year the United Nations (UN) declares a theme for an international year; therefore, all of 2019 is dedicated to increasing understanding, awareness, integration, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas related to Indigenous languages, whether that be digitally, culturally, pedagogically, or politically.
This global initiative is commemorated throughout the year under the slogan “indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building, and reconciliation”.
Last autumn, Wikitongues asked UNESCO to help ensure…
In order to build inclusive knowledge in our societies, preserve cultural heritage, and mobilize political will to work towards global sustainable development, Wikitongues aims to attain documentation of every language in the world.
Currently our largest documentation output comes in the form of video recordings, referred to by linguists and archivists as oral histories. …