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yu'ush'i'shul'tul' "Paddling together": Culturally-based language immersion

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Title: yu'ush'i'shul'tul' "Paddling together": Culturally-based language immersion
Authors: Baetscher, Kevin
Issue Date: 01 Mar 2013
Description: Coast Salish culture traditionally centered on canoes, and today canoe racing enjoys vast popularity among the youth and is the focus of summer, when people throughout the Pacific Northwest congregate to compete each weekend. My research started out as a documentation project on linguistic aspects of canoe culture in Hul'q'umi'num', drawing on my analysis of videotaped interviews with elders, followed up with paddling experiences with knowledgeable coaches. However, I soon realized that canoeing had untapped potential for culturally-relevant language immersion.

Canoe training encompasses various snuw'uyulh 'cultural teachings', e.g. eating properly, purging with certain plants, cleansing one's mind before touching the sacred cedar wood, working as a team. Canoe language is robust with plural and reciprocal verbs forms (Gerdts 2007), verbs in imperfective aspect and antipassive voice (Gerdts & Hukari 2007), causative forms of motion verbs (Gerdts & Hukari 2006), and verb roots with highly specialized meanings, e.g. 'pry', 'switch sides'. Terminology associated with canoes often includes classifiers for 'people', 'vessels', and 'paddles' (Gerdts & Hinkson 2004). The bodies of the athletes and the canoe are referred to with a variety of body part lexical suffixes. Hence, canoe racing is a robust domain in both lexicon and morphosyntax.

The thrust of this project is to provide material for use by coaches and paddlers in the form of online multimedia reference materials that include film recordings of paddling events. English translations are mostly superfluous. Workshops have helped orient the coaches in the use of the materials with the goal of integrating Hul'q'umi'num' language use into practices next season. Participation in races requires intensive training that does not leave much time for other activities such as language courses. Daily practices include numerous repetitive commands along with both verbal and physical response. The words are anchored in the paddlers' memory and serve as a foundation for related expressions. Travel time (on ferries with wi-fi) and overnight camping provide an excellent opportunity for language study. For future research, I hope to extend language use to other domains relevant to race trips including barbecuing, bone game, and tides/winds/weather.

In sum, this method of delivering lessons by piggybacking language learning on existing cultural practices minimizes not only expenses, but also the influence of outsiders. I hope this project will help popularize the native language among the youth, and set a successful example of using linguistic analysis to help provide immersion materials.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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