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Documenting refugee languages in the diaspora: The Boise Language Project

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Title: Documenting refugee languages in the diaspora: The Boise Language Project
Authors: Temkin Martinez, Michal
Issue Date: 28 Feb 2013
Description: In this talk, we will discuss the work set forth by the Boise Language Project (BLP), working with members of the refugee community in Southwest Idaho. The BLP was founded on the Boise State University campus in 2010 as a way to not only integrate teaching and research opportunities for linguistics students and faculty, but to also reach out to the local refugee community in the Boise area. One of the main tenets of the BLP is instilling in refugees a sense of self-worth and confidence, as well as pride in their heritage and their native tongue.

Participants in the BLP are introduced to the process of language documentation through consultation for a field methods course, but can opt to continue work on their language with students and faculty after the semester’s end. During the first two years, faculty worked closely with leaders of the two Somali-Bantu organizations in Boise to assist them in determining which community member would best represent the community for a language documentation project. Projects currently under way include a grammar sketch and dictionary of Mushungulu (Bantu, G30), and the compilation and translation of a children’s story book in Maay (Afro-Asiatic).

In addition to recruitment among refugee community leadership, in January 2012, the first BLP consultant and the director of the BLP co-facilitated a workshop on language documentation at the Idaho Conference on Refugees. During the workshop, speakers of 18 different languages learned about issues concerning language endangerment and the need for language documentation, heard about the consultant’s experience in documenting his native language, and were given the option to partake in a mini elicitation session with students in the linguistic field methods course. After the workshop, participants were given the choice to be included in the consultant pool for the BLP, and all participants opted to do so.

One of the most fundamental ways in which faculty in the BLP has been able to forge and maintain relationships with leaders of the various refugee groups has been through participation in interest groups consisting of staff and administrators from local refugee agencies, as well as other faculty members working with refugees on different projects. To that end, I will outline helpful resources found in many resettlement cities and universities around the United States.
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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