Bilingual Mi’gmaq-English Podcast

The first episode of “Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki” [Welcome to Mi’kma’ki], a bilingual Mi’gmaq-English podcast, debuted May 22, 2015.  The podcast discusses issues relevant to Mi’gmaq people in the 21st century as well as furthers the preservation and conservation of Mi’gmaq language and culture. The podcast’s creator, Annie Claire, is from Elsipogtog, New Brunswick.

The first episode talks about child apprehension and foster care in Canada.

First episode can be here here

Check out podcast’s blog here

[Untitled] by Carol Dana

Pensive in her rocking chair
stiff and straight faced.
The hard line of her mouth
I would wait to see crack
To know what was inside.
Sometimes I felt I should hide
from her sternness and harsh ways,
Although there were many days
she would talk and smile with her friends,
passing the while
speaking in Passamaquoddy,
their eyes smiling with fun
when directed at me.
I wondered, now what have I done
to amuse them so?
I would be perturbed to no end
for some understanding.
Little did I know the ladies joked
about having fun, teasing, and sex.
They talked about human qualities,
What the neighbors said or done.
We were the age-old stream
of lndian people
Yet I couldn’t participate
because of my lack of native language.

Born and raised on Indian Island, Carol Dana has six children and nine grandchildren. In 2008 she earned her MAin education at the University of Maine. She has devoted years to Penobscot language revitalization, working with linguist Frank Siebert on the Penobscot dictionary project during the 1980s and teaching Penobscot at the Indian Island School during the 1990s. At present she is the cultural historical preservation officer for the Penobscot Nation, where she has helped to produce several workbooks, videos, and other cultural materials. The following poems first appeared in her chapbook When No One Is Looking.

from Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England (2014)

Recounting Hawai’i Part 1: Culturally-situated language research

IMG_20150304_113324As we are flying over the beautiful mountains of B.C.,  I realize that my week-long Hawai’ian journey comes to a close. Despite this, I am certain this is only the beginning of my own venture into language revitalization and documentation.

Thinking back on the past week, it is very difficult to pick any one part that stands out; every day was teeming with new friends, experiences and linguistic discovery. Hawai’ian landscape and beauty aside (an example photo below…),   here’s a slice of my (Yuliya’s) personal highlights, which I will relay across several blog posts.

Makapuʻu point and beach.

Makapuʻu point and beach.

The theme of this ICLDC, “Enriching Theory, Practice & Application” was incredibly fitting for the wide-ranging crowd (e.g. I met people in library sciences, independent studies, and social policy). I guess the thing that hit home the most was the acceptance of different fields as lenses through which we can create an interdisciplinary approach to language documentation. The main question being, how can we connect and strengthen our individual practices with theory, and apply it to what communities need and want?
I particularly enjoyed the opening plenary talk for addressing this issue in a way that was accessible to linguists and non-linguists alike.
Lenore Grenoble (University of Chicago) has been working with the Arctic Indigenous Languages Project to help “assess, monitor and promote the vitality of numerous indigenous languages found in the Arctic” (taken from the project website). The project, led by many community members across the Arctic Circle (including members from Canada, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, US, Norway), focuses on: 1. language policy;  2. language vitality assessment; and 3. language acquisition
Her talk addressed the following question: “How can a hitchhiker linguist help support language vitality?”
  • Hitchhikers = linguists who are not permanent members of communities but rather visitors along for the ride
  • As it turns out, language documentation can be fruitfully informed & even reoriented by guidelines created to teach communicative competence & proficiency in majority languages (i.e. taking a majority language proficiency test and making it suitable for smaller minority language communities)
    • communicative competence = cultural knowledge and knowledge of social conventions
  • Importantly, proficiency guidelines can be and should be informed by research in language acquisition, psycholinguistics and education
    • Moreover, the guidelines should be task-oriented and culturally as well as socially situated
    • That includes knowing how to speak, including knowledge of turn-taking mechanisms, appropriateness of nonverbal behavior, etc. (Savignon 2002)
      • We should adopt a more action-oriented approach: language users are social agents who develop general particular communicative competences while trying to achieve their everyday goals
      • This point is often overlooked or cut out by linguists who look at grammar; for instance, we tend to strip facial expressions in elicitations or when documenting natural speech
      • (Here Grenoble emphasized, IT’S OK NOT TO LIKE THESE GUIDELINES AS LINGUISTS…BUT THEY ARE GOOD. This is what people WANT to know. This is what speakers in communities want to learn!)
  • Language practices, too, can be revised. This is a large category that encompasses all the different ways we use language, e.g.:
    • everyday idiomatic uses of language
    • language games
    • songs
    • conversation, how to use language
    • traditional: prayers, traditional speeches
  • Thus, in documenting with your community, you need to ask yourself, “What skills are we trying to foster? What is realistic in language acquisition? What do learners want to know?” Paralinguistic meaning may be a big part of this.
    •  As an example, Grenoble presented some of her own research with Wolof, which is not endangered, but provides good evidence of shift in linguistic practices
    • Wolof has clicks that are contrastive. They have not been documented as part of the morphosyntactic or phonological system but they are definitely there!
      • Crucially, you can’t be a fluent speaker of Wolof without understanding/using these clicks!
      • As a fluent speaker, you have to know how to say yes with a click, how to say no with a click, how to correct someone with a click, etc.
 Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.

Mi’gmaq Summer Workshop


Discussion groups

This workshop was wonderful, I led a discussion group and some of the ideas that the youth and elders came up with were just amazing; things like university courses, radio classes, total immersion summer camps and weekend school, shared language programs between all Mi’gmaq communities and  emphasizing advertisement were mentioned. This was a very well thought out workshop and I am glad that I got the chance to participate.    

Guest speaker Diane Mitchell

Guest speaker Diane Mitchell

Some of the points made about Diane’s speech were really moving. Diane talks about how the Mi’gmaq language used to be universal and now we have so many dialects for each community that to bring the language back for each community is nearly impossible compared to if we tried to bring back the universal language as it once was. The problem is that we no longer have a “universal” language and this will possible lead to the extinction of our language if nothing is done about it immediately.


Guest speaker Starr Paul

Guest speaker Starr Paul

I liked that the guest speakers didn’t just speak in English, being a learner I had a hard time understanding everything that was being said in Mi’gmaq/Mi’kmaq but just the fact that there were words that could be understood by almost everyone shows that our language is not completely lost and can be revitalized if we work really hard to bring it back.

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.




Mary Ann Metallic receives LSA’s Excellence in Community Linguistics Award

Mary Ann Metallic, Mi’gmaq language teacher at Listuguj Education Directorate, receives LSA’s Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. The LSA writes:

Mary Ann Metallic has done exemplary work to revitalize the Mi’gmaq language in her home community of Listuguj, Quebec. Her infectious passion for Mi’gmaq has led to the development of a successful teaching program, and her work with linguists has resulted in significant contributions to language documentation and linguistic theory.

The annual LSA meeting will be held in Minneapolis, MN January 2-5, 2014. Mary Ann and her daughter, Janine, will be traveling there. Congratulations Mary Ann!