Tour of Nawahi, a Hawaiian language total immersion school

Ke Kula Mauli Ola Hawaiʻi ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, or Living Hawaiian Life-Force School, is located in Keaʻau, Hawaiʻi. Elise McClay and Carol Little had the opportunity to tour this school on March 4th. The school is like any other school you would find in the United States, except that all courses are taught in the Hawaiian language. Oh, and not to forget that in the school playground are pineapple gardens and pigpens. This school teaches their students all subjects from Math to Social Studies to History to Japanese using the Hawaiian language. English, which is introduced in the 6th grade, is taught in English, however.

The school opened its doors in the 1980s. At this time, there were only a handful of speakers of the Hawaiian language and only about 45 under the age of 18. The Hawaiian language was falling into near extinction. Dedicated and devoted teachers promoted the usage of the Hawaiian language at this school. Now, there are around 300 students who matriculate there, many students having attended since kindergarten or pre-school. Throughout the hallways, students of all ages can be heard chattering in Hawaiian. The classrooms are full of posters and pictures with Hawaiian text. Some students of Nawahi now use Hawaiian at home as their primary language, after having learned it at school. Many students say they will raise their children in this language and hope that their children can also attend a Hawaiian language immersion school.

It was truly an enlightening and empowering experience to see such a successful language revitalization program. This does not happen over night, though. Many of the teachers have been there from the beginning and can attest to the many hardships they encountered and overcome which ultimately led to its success.

School Grounds at Nawahi

School Grounds at Nawahi Hawaiian language immersion school where students learn to tend to plants, many times using Hawaiian practices.

Pigpens at Nawahi

Students not only learn subjects like math and history but also how to take care of pigs and plants.

Pineapple plants at Nawahi

Pineapple plants growing on the school grounds at the Nawahi school.


Some ICLDC Presentations

This list quickly sums up a few of the presentations I really enjoyed at ICLDC, in no particular order. The days were very packed, so sadly I only got to see a fraction of the interesting talks that were happening from 9-5:30 every day (in 6 different conference rooms!), but hopefully this gives you a quick idea of the types of great conversations and work that is being done by linguists, language revitalizationists, and language conservationists around the world.

  • The Algonquian Online Interactive Linguistic Atlas (Marie-Odile Junker, Nicole Rosen, Hélène St-Onge, Arok Wolvengrey, Mimie Neacappo)
    • This website maps a lot of different dialects of various Algonquian languages, putting equivalent sentences (for instance, translations of “This is my mother.”) side-by-side on the map. You can choose to use the website in English, French, or without colonial languages altogether.
    • All their technology (using Python and MySQL) is open-source and non-proprietary, so this model could easily be adjusted to show language variation in other language families as well.
  • The documentary linguist as facilitator: The view from Trung (Dulong) (Ross Perlin, University of Bern)
    • As linguists we have to find ways of situating our own roles in communities studying languages that we may not speak.
    • One potential model we can draw from is the literature on being a facilitator, placing “a focus on process and group dynamics, impartiality or neutrality, the evoking of participation, trust and consensus-building, and resource aggregation.”
  • Sharing worlds of knowledge: Research protocols for communities (Andria Wilhelm, Universities of Victoria and of Alberta; Connie Cheecham, Northern Lights School District)
    • Copyright law and other legal measures are generally insufficient when it comes to protecting Indigenous communities, specifically with respect to intangible property like linguistic expertise.
    • It is important for researchers to collaboratively form concrete research protocols with their community/the community they are working with!
    • These protocols may address guidelines for principles of respect, ownership & profit, informed consent, access, fixation, and any other facets are relevant to your work.
  • Developing a regional Master-Apprentice training network in Australia (Gwendolyn Hyslop, Australian National University)
    • Last year, Leanne Hinton and others led workshops for representatives from 31 Indigenous language communities in order to instruct them in the best strategies for engaging in the Master-Apprentice Program.
    • They practiced (among other techniques) non-verbal communication, going through wordless books in the language, listening and repetition, immersion sets, talking about modern items/new vocabulary, games for counting, and puppet play.
    • The goal of these sessions was to “train the trainer” and form a network of MAP groups throughout Australia–it was more popular than anticipated, and they had to run 3 workshops instead of the planned 1!
    • People generally found that language pods, where 3-6 people engage in immersion together, felt more comfortable and natural than the usual MAP pair system of a single speaker and a single learner.
      • We should try these out, too! And it would be great to get Leanne Hinton out for a workshop, no?
  • Developing consistency by consensus: Avoiding fiat in language revitalization (Lance Twitchell, University of Alaska Southeast; James Crippen, University of British Columbia)
    • The Tlingit language has a lot of sounds, to put it lightly. Developing an orthography was a bit of a problem, and for a while there were two separate writing systems. Over time, speakers merged the best features of each into what is known as the ‘email’ orthography to some people, a process that happened gradually, by internal consensus rather than external decree.
    • This presentation said that standards should be violable; mistakes should be okay, since a language is owned by everybody who uses it; it is helpful to standardize aspects of the language until wide usage, not after.

Elise, Jessica, and Carol at the 3rd ICLDC at University of Hawai’i

Elise, Carol, and Jessica set off a few days ago to present Student Perspectives on Mi’gmaq Language-Learning through Multi-Modal Teaching: A Community-Linguistics Partnership, a collaborative work by Elise McClay, Carol Little, Mary-Beth Wysote, Madeleine Metallic, Sarah Vicaire, Travis Wysote, Janine Metallic, and Jessica Coon. They presented this poster at the 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation held in Honolulu at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The theme of this year’s conference is “Sharing Worlds of Knowledge”. People from around the world come to present what they are doing in the realm of language documentation and conservation. Researchers, linguists, teachers, even botanists and physicists, come to learn, share, and contribute their research and perspectives making this truly an interdisciplinary platform for language documentation and conservation.

Elise McClay and Carol Little with poster at ICLDC 2013

Elise McClay and Carol Little with poster at ICLDC 2013

This Week at Algonquian Reading Group

This week Gretchen McCulloch will be presenting research about verb finals using data from Mi’gmaq. The reading selection is Campana’s 1998 paper on The Thematic Properties of Algonquian Verbs. As always, 10:30-11:30 in room 117 in the Linguistics Building (1085 Dr. Penfield) this Thursday February 7th.
All are welcome to join!

Conference Presentations by the Mi’gmaq Research Partnership

This October was the 44th Algonquian Conference at the University of Chicago. Many of our Mi’gmaq Research Partnership members presented.

Alan Bale and Jessica Coon presented “Classifiers are for numerals, not nouns: Evidence from Mi’gmaq and Chol.” at the 43rd Northeast Linguistics Society (NELS) in New York, NY where Alan also had a poster presentation of “Agreement without AGREE: Disjunction in Mi’gmaq.”

More recently Mike and Gretchen both presented at The 2012-3 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) in Boston, MA. Mike presented “Against Non-configurationality in Mi’gmaq” and Gretchen “Preverb Ordering in Mi’gmaq”

And stay tuned for Elise and Carol’s poster presentation of “Student perspectives on Mi’gmaq language-learning through multi-modal teaching: A community-linguistics partnership” at the University of Hawai’i’s at the 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation on February 28th.

Mid-November Update

It’s been pretty quiet on the blog for the last little while, but that’s not because we’re working less on the project! We’ve been working a whole lot on a big aspect of our Mi’gmaq Research Partnership: specifically, trying to get money.

This past month, we’ve been working on our application for a grant. It’s allowed us to get a good look at the different strengths and goals of this project, and we’ve begun to get very excited about the coming work! Turns out, we’re doing good work, and there are a whole lot of interesting areas for our project to grow and explore.

  • LingSync application/Chrome extension. This is a really exciting application (at least, exciting for linguists) which will let us store, organise, and selectively share our language data (with encryption on all of it for the sake of our speakers’ privacy). Right now, we’re working with iLanguage on building on the existing code. On our to-do list is…
    • Making a Conversation! LingSync expects people to enter data as single lines, unconnected to each other. What we’d like to do is add another level, which lets users add conversations, dialogues, and discourse so that the separate lines of data are linked to each other just like speakers connect to each other in real life.
  • Mobile language-learning app. We’ve got (very rough) Android and Chrome extension prototypes for this already, and have a lot of ideas about where it’s going to go from here. The parts that we want to focus on the most are…
    •  its online/offline abilities, since a lot of language-learning apps work best online and have very limited offline capabilities
    • its tool for also letting students build their own lessons! Most language lessons are “read-only”, and students are expected to consume what is put on their app and be satisfied with that. But what we want to do is let students create material with speakers in their lives, and tailor their app to their own needs.
  • Master-Apprentice program. This is my favourite part of this project right now. It’s a wonderful opportunity for learners of Mi’gmaq to get some support and guidance, and partner one-on-one with fluent speakers. Again, get in touch with Vicky or look at an older blog post for more details about it!
One last thing we are looking forward to: two of our members (Carol and me, Elise) are lucky to say that they’re going to Hawai’i in late February for the 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation! We’ll be presenting a poster version of the talk that we gave with Mary-Beth Wysote and Sarah Vicaire for the Algonquian Conference last month, based on the slides here.

Returning from the Algonquian Conference

We were well-represented at the 44th Algonquian Conference in Chicago this weekend, with a group talk by Carol, Sarah, Mary-Beth and Elise about the summer Mi’gmaq language course, in addition to individual linguistics talks by Mike, Elise, Gretchen, Erin, and Conor. For more details on the individual talks, check out the Research page, which already has abstracts but will hopefully have handouts soon.

It was a great trip and we met a lot of people. Here are some pictures!

Obviation and Intransitives

Mi’gmaq is a language with obviation – that is, a way of telling animate third persons apart. The first third person (or the proximate third person) is not marked, while the other third persons (or obviative third person or fourth person) is marked with the suffix -l or -al, as in Mali nemiatl Piel-al, ‘Mary sees Peter’.  The verb also receives an ending indicating that a proximate person is acting on an obviative person: -atl. These endings can also vary for the number of people involved, like so:

  • -aji, as in nemiaji, ‘he or she sees them (obviative)’
  • -a’titl, as in nemia’titl, ‘they see him or her (obviative)’
  • -a’tiji, as in nemia’tiji, ‘they see them (obviative)’

This is really useful, since it helps us keep track of who is doing what and allows the word order in Mi’gmaq to vary. So, whether we say Mali nemiatl Pielal or Pielal nemiatl Mali or Nemiatl Mali Pielal, etc., we have a way of knowing who is seen and who is doing the seeing that is not based purely on word order, like in English.

But this isn’t the only way obviatives are used! If, say, we’ve already been talking about someone in the obviative person, we can continue referring to them in the obviative person with other verbs – even with intransitives. For example, if we’ve already said Mali gesalaji mui’naq, ‘Mary likes bears’, we could then say Wigulti’niji nipugtug, ‘they (the bears) live in the forest’, where the ending -ulti’nij means that it is them (obviative) that are living there, and not any other group.

Here are a few questions I have about this topic:

  • For Researchers: Has anyone else seen any 4th person marking on AI verbs? If so, would this information need to be included in AI verb paradigms on our wiki page?
  • For Speakers: Does the above example using wigulti’nij sound right to you? If so, how would you say “they (the two bears) live in the forest” or “it (the bear) lives in the forest” in a similar situation? Also, if you spot any errors, I will be happy to fix them!

Update 2 from CoLang

In the second week of CoLang, I took courses on Archives/Databases, Strategies to Reintroduce Languages, Pedagogical Grammars, and Internet/Multimedia.

Archives/Databases: In this course, we learned how to use SQL and OpenOffice Base to make databases, which are basically like inter-connected spreadsheets where the information can be presented in a variety of different ways. If anyone is interested in learning how to do any of this, there are very detailed slides available for the first and second weeks of this course.

Strategies: This was a class about using archived and written material for language teaching, particularly for languages without many fluent speakers anymore. We talked about a variety of sources for language learning materials and things you can do with them. Some things that other language communities have done include an iphone app for learning YatiWunderkammer, a project for making spelling dictionaries on mobile phones (so you can text in a language more easily), a list of lesson plans for language-learning in general, and some audio/video lessons that have been made in Mohegan. Other ideas are playing games like I Spy and Simon Says, and the “Where are my keys?” game that I posted about earlier.

Pedagogical Grammars: This class looked at lots of different types of grammars and discussed what makes a grammar effective for teaching (syllabus here). is a website with audio Cree lessons that goes with a series of textbooks on the Cree language. A great quote from Jacob Manitowa-Bailey, who has done a lot of work with the Sauk Master-Apprentice program:

“Concrete, contextualized, varied, modern, and repeated sentence length examples are better than charts, explanations, or isolated examples in longer narratives.” -Jacob Manatowa-Bailey

Internet/Multimedia: In this class, we discussed a variety of ways to use Internet resources to promote and use language. A few examples of interesting things we were shown: Indigenous Tweets, which lists people who tweet in indigenous languages. Navajo Word of the Day, a website (also on Facebook and Twitter) that gives a new Navajo word each day. We also learned how to put QR codes on posters to send people to a website on their smartphone. I have a demo of this that I can show if anyone’s interested but I don’t think I want to put it up online at the moment.

Update 1 from CoLang

Hello from Kansas everyone! I’ve been here for just over a week now at CoLang, a six-week institute on Collaborative Language research on endangered languages. I’m really excited to be here and I’ve been learning a lot in all my courses and meeting a lot of great people. The courses I took last week were XML, Lexicography, FLEx, and Grantwriting. I’m going to give a short summary of some useful things from each below. If anyone is interested in learning more about a particular topic, just let me know and I can send you notes or links!

XML: This is a formatting language that allows you to mark parts of a text as having a certain relationship to each other. You can mark the text directly, or use various programs that create this type of markup (like FLEx, see below) or format it into a particular type of output (like only the sentences in one language, or a comparison table, or a webpage, using tools like XSLT).

Lexicography: This class was all about making dictionaries. Although there are several Mi’gmaq dictionaries, it was still useful to learn about some of the decisions that dictionary-creators make and the software that can be used to do that, particularly since some of these can also be used to organize language data more generally. There’s a great list of pros and cons of various software programs in one of the presentations from the class.

FLEx: This is one popular database program that many linguists use or are familiar with. We learned how to import and backup data, how to do glossing, editing the lexicon, categorizing and linking terms with each other, and doing statistics on how many times a word occurs and in what contexts. I feel like at this point I probably know enough that I could figure out basically anything else I want to do by clicking around or reading help documents.

Grantwriting: This class was taught by two profs who were experienced in applying for grants and reviewing other people’s grants. We learned about different granting agencies and got to see some examples of both accepted and rejected grants and reviews. The most important things that they identified in grantwriting are: having a good idea, being believable that you will accomplish it, and doing so in an ethical manner (more detailed notes about how to do this that I’ll pull out in grantwriting season). Although we’ve applied to SSHRC before, there were also a few international granting agencies that I wasn’t already aware of, such as the Endangered Language Fund and the Endangered Languages Project, so these might be other things to consider at some point.

In week 2 I’m taking Archives/Databases, Strategies to Reintroduce Languages, Pedagogical Grammar, and Internet/Multimedia, which are also going well, so I’ll give a summary of those next week!