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Beautiful words: Enriching language revitalization through understandings of linguistic structure

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Title: Beautiful words: Enriching language revitalization through understandings of linguistic structure
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: British Columbia (BC), Canada is home to 32 Indigenous languages, all of them considered to be endangered. Considerable work is underway by First Nation communities to revitalize their languages. Linguists classify many of the languages of BC as polysynthetic, meaning words are composed of many morphemes, or units of meaning. Understanding the units of meaning that make up words allows for a deeper understanding of the worldview reflected in the language. While strong fluent speakers and linguists who work with these languages have knowledge and appreciation of these units of meaning, those understandings are often not reflected in the curriculum and pedagogy for teaching BC languages.

Drawing on examples from Kwak’wala, a language of coastal BC, this paper discusses how paying attention to the linguistic structure of the language may result in more effective curriculum and approaches for language learning and teaching. In developing understanding of the units of meaning that make up Kwak’wala words, learners can grasp literal meanings leading to deeper understandings of Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw worldview. Through understanding literal meanings and metaphors embedded in Kwak’wala words, learners come to appreciate the beauty of the language. In addition, learners can be supported to use morphemes as building blocks in their language learning. Rather than memorizing words and phrases, learners can be encouraged to listen for and use the morphemes they know to understand and produce new words and phrases.

Selected References

Grande, S. (2008). Red pedagogy. The un-methodology. In Denzin, N.K., Lincoln, Y. S., Smith, L. T. (Eds). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (233-254). Los Angeles,CA: Sage..

Tobin, K. (2013) A sociocultural approach to science education. magis, Revista Internacional de Investigación en Educación, 6(12), 19-35.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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