About Yuliya

Yuliya is a first year PhD student at McGill. She has previously done research on obviation in Mi'gmaq and helped develop LingSync in its early stages (in collaboration with iLanguage Lab). More recently, she has been working on nominalization. Yuliya received her BA in Linguistics from Concordia University in 2012.

Dr. Morcom’s Seminar on Language Programming

A few weeks ago Janine and I attended Dr. Lindsay Morcom’s seminar on “Language Preservation, Education, and Diversity”. The following are some highlights from her seminar.

  • The medium is the message. We view the education system as a system that can tell you what is useful and what is important. If your language is not part of the equation , then you are told that it is not important. This was the way schools used to rob language from children in the past. But, by the same reasoning, there is is no reason that a school system in the hands of Native people shouldn’t be able to counteract the damage inflicted in the past.
  • There is a high correlation between immersion programming and self esteem (collective and personal). Taylor & Wright (1995) (see attached article) conducted a study with Inuit, White, and mixed-heritage participants to see the connection between heritage language instruction and self-esteem. The results showed that early heritage language education had a positive effect on personal and collective self-esteem of minority-language students. This has many long-term benefits, such as a stronger sense of personal identity, stronger connection to collective identity (feeling like you belong to a group), and positive impacts on academic success.
  • Aboriginal language immersion programs have an important role in language revitalization, maintenance, and education. Usborne et al. (2011) (see attached article) compared a strong Mi’gmaq immersion program with a Mi’gmaq as a second language (L2) program, and found that students in the immersion program not only had stronger Mi’kmaq language skills compared to students in the L2 program, but students within both programs ultimately had the same level of English. This ultimately shows that learning a Native language at a young age does not negatively impact the process of mainstream language-learning.
  • The type of language programming (immersion, L2 ) should be decided on a case-by-case basis, as it is more of a continuum: programs of study in the language, programs of study for the language, or a combination of both. Factors that should be considered: what is the goal of the community? what is the history of the community with the language? what  is the status of the language now? (e.g. is it used everyday in the community? are there many fluent speakers?) Illustrated with 3 case studies: Pokomchi’, Dene, and Michif.
  • Native language programming allows students to learn through a culturally-appropriate lens, which is important. Just as everyone has different learning styles (visual, aural, tactile)  a culturally-appropriate lens can be conducive to learning and can help propagate traditional practices, values, etc.

For those interested to find out more, there were two articles that we discussed: Identity and the Language of the Classroom and Learning through an Aboriginal language – the impact on students’ English and aboriginal language skills. Also, Dr. Morcom has allowed us to post her slides from the seminar, which you can find here: Language Preservation, Education, and Diversity.




âpihtawikosisân: “Roadblocks to effective indigenous language development”

For anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the âpihtawikosisân blog, I (Yuliya) highly recommend doing so.  I recently read this blog post, which was not only insightful, but also a wonderful read. As a linguist, I was only aware of some of the issues hampering effective indigenous language revitalization: lack of funding, lack of commitment on a wider level, and suspicion in the communities. It turns out that the bigger picture is more complex, and, as the author points out, includes lack of communication (emphasis is mine):

This is not just about money, this is also about coordination and sharing of expertise. We have so many people out there on their own, trying to do the same things over and over again, not even aware of one another. We have Language Nest programs in some communities that are doing very well; we have unique community-based schools that successfully integrate cultural learnings and graduate academically competent students. We have people creating online and print resourcesapps and so on. We even have people offering free language classes in urban centres. It often feels to me that we are going in a thousand different directions, and in doing so we are all beating the same path without really moving forward.


I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read this post, if not for the content, then for the clarity of prose. Using social media, like this blog and the ‘Nnu’gina’masultinej Facebook page, to to communicate, support, and update each other is a small step in the right direction. But taking small steps can produce big results! There are many communities across Canada that are facing similar language issues; it is definitely worth sharing our expertise and experience thus far.

Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages

There has been a call for applications to participate in the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages (BoL), which will take place in Washington, DC, June 10-21, 2013. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2013. More details provided below and on the application page (linked above):

We invite Native Americans and First Nations people who are learning and revitalizing their languages, and graduate students, faculty and other scholars who specialize in Linguistics (preferably in Native American or First Nations languages) to apply to participate in the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages (BoL).
BoL is designed to promote active collaboration among people with a wide range of perspectives about language and culture, including technical linguistic knowledge and cultural expertise. Participants will be grouped into research teams, based on language, made up of linguists and Native community language researchers. Team members will actively work together, mentor one another, and share their expertise throughout the program and beyond.
The research teams will explore archives and museum collections at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution, with morning workshops on linguistics, language teaching and learning, archival research and language revitalization held at the National Museum of the American Indian. The two weeks of study will culminate in a research project and presentation that uses archival or museum resources for linguistic research or language teaching.
Beyond a general commitment to language learning from archival sources, participants must be willing and able to attend and actively participate in the entire Institute. Aside from truly unforeseen circumstances, it will not be possible to arrive late, leave early, or to skip the required workshops and events (though some workshops will be optional).
Participants will stay in the dorms at George Washington University, where they can network and study together in the evenings. BoL will pay for participants’ rooms, and partially subsidize food and travel.
BoL will accept 60 participants. This is a great opportunity to find and use archival materials to reclaim, learn, and teach indigenous languages, in the company of other like-minded people.
The 2013 Breath of Life Institute is funded by the Documenting Endangered Languages Program of the National Science Foundation. Partners include the National Museum of Natural History, The National Museum of the American Indian, the Library of Congress, The Endangered Language Fund and Yale University.

An Update from iLanguage Lab Team

As many of you may know, we are building a database for all of our Mi’gmaq data! To those who do not…we are building a database! 

The big picture:
We have been working with iLanguage Lab LTD to create an open source (free!), easy to use app that will run online and offline. There are plenty of database applications out there, but they tend to be difficult to use and either run online OR offline (not both). The idea is to create something that will be used not only by linguists, but by whoever is interested in doing language research (for non-programmers by non-programmers). Thus, we are making the code for it as intuitive as possible, which will be easy to change and fit specific needs in the future. More features and other info here.
What do we mean by database? It will essentially be like Word or any other word processor, but more organized. We will have sessions, where data from elicitations can be entered directly into a series of fields (orthography, gloss, translation, etc.). Researchers and consultants will be able to collaborate with each other on projects in groups and will be able to have discussions via comments. Ultimately, it will be a place to store all of the data collected thus far in a way that is accessible to those involved in the project but also secure (maintaining consultant confidentiality and reducing the number of errors that inevitably occur during research). 
Why is this useful? It is organized and accessible, which is great for people trying to learn the language as well as for project purposes. The flexibility of the program will also allow linguists and speakers together to decide who has access to what data.

The nitty gritty:

So far the project is still in its skeletal stages (literally..we are using a JavaScript framework called ‘Backbone’). We have been working on things that are mostly ‘under the hood’ (things like defining what ‘Users’ are, how we want things to look, etc.) In addition, we have been running tests to make sure that the code we are writing is working. You can check out the progress by installing a google chrome extension called “Drag and Drop FieldLinguistics” (name to be changed soon) in the Chrome Web Store. The goal is to have most of these tests done by the end of this week so we can start building up to the ‘View’, which is what people will actually see when they use the app. The Beta Testing Target is July 1st 2012, at which point we will actually test out the finished app. 

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to post them here (or if you are technically oriented, you can post on the github project page: https://github.com/mecathcart/Drag-and-Drop-FieldLinguistics/issues/milestones)! We really hope that this will be used by people who have previously found themselves frustrated by the obscurity of other web applications.

Links of Interest

I recently attended a talk by a Rutgers alumni who has been studying Cheyenne, a Plains Algonquian language, for six years. Her dissertation was on evidentiality and gives a brief overview of the grammar, which I thought was interesting. It can be found right on her webpage: http://conf.ling.cornell.edu/sem/index.shtml

Also, this conference may be of interest! http://conf.ling.cornell.edu/SULA7/index.html