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Indigenous language story-work: Examples from Secwepemctsin (Shuswap) and Xaad Kil (Haida)

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Title: Indigenous language story-work: Examples from Secwepemctsin (Shuswap) and Xaad Kil (Haida)
Authors: Ignace, Marianne
Ignace, Ronald
Bell, Lawrence
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: Within the canons of indigenous language documentation and linguistic analysis, “texts” – as ancient handed down narratives of the “trickster” genre, or as oral histories that speak to groups’ and individuals’ past lived experiences – have usually been considered as one component of the “holy trinity” of corpus data. On the basis of collaborative work with Secwépemctsin (Shuswap) and Xaad Kil (Haida) speakers and learners, we examine innovative ways of doing indigenous language story work as it serves the practical purpose of language documentation, revitalization and learning. Having worked with narratives among speakers and learners of Secwépemctsin and Xaad Kil, we will discuss some of the challenges and successes of transcribing and translating, editing, annotating, understanding, celebrating and re-creating indigenous narratives as a way to breathe new life into our languages. One component of this work deals with ways in which we can meaningfully reconstruct and re-gain into living oral repertoire narratives told by past knowledge keepers and speakers that never made it to the printed page, let alone to audio-recording in the indigenous language. Such texts survive in English translations only, recorded in the past through the medium of Chinuk Wáwa, or through the work of indigenous interpreters. We will show how careful contextualization of social and cultural knowledge, ecological messages, references to particular places and landscapes allow us to re-constitute and re-gain such narratives as equipment for living among language speakers, learners and practitioners in our speech communities. A second component of our work deals with ways of making sense of the messages of narratives, as we either re-construct them or decipher them where they do exist in indigenous language recordings. We then look at how narratives embed social, ecological, geographic and moral messages in specific poetic language and word play. Comparatively, we examine some features of the stylistic devices around which narratives function in this capacity. Based on these findings, and on our experiences of having workshopped narratives as a component of indigenous language teaching, we show that they, in whole or in part, can act as meaningful mnemonic devices for learners of indigenous languages. Particular parts of narratives, whether they involve lines of character speech, poetic visualizations of experience that deploy grammatical forms like classifiers and instrumentals (Xaad Kil) lexical suffixes (Secwépemctsin) , or rhythmic forms of speech (alliteration and parallel lines rather than rhyme) can serve as scaffolding for learners to memorize linguistic structures.
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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