Documenting lexical dialects of Kumiai in Baja California

Field, Margaret
Field, Margaret
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This presentation will provide an overview of ongoing collaborative language revitalization efforts in the Baja, California Kumiai community sponsored by NSF’s Documenting Endangered Languages fund. Baja Kumiai, or Tiipay, is a moribund language (community members insist all dialects are mutually intelligible) with approximately 50—60 speakers, most of whom are 50 years or older. The goals of this project are multiple: 1) to document the multiple dialects of Kumiai spoken in Baja California. 2) to create a discourse-based lexicon and grammar detailing the extent of this variation and representing each of these dialects. 3) to create pedagogical materials for teaching Kumiai which reflect this dialect variation, in both paper and multimedia formats, as well as Spanish and English. 4) to assist Kumiai speakers in learning to write their language so that they may actively be involved not only in the creation of teaching materials but also learn how to use literacy as a teaching tool for the future. 5) to archive all of the audio and video data collected across these communities for future research and use by Kumiai communities at the Archive of Indigenous languages of Latin America (AILLA) housed at the University of Texas, Austin. This presentation will focus on the particular needs and considerations of documenting multiple dialects in a speech community whose language ideologies may be described as “variationist” (Kroskrity 2002, in press,) that is, in which dialectal variation is not hierarchized but is instead naturalized, and associated with local group identity. In Baja California there are at least six Kumiai regional communities, and preliminary data suggests that there is a good deal of lexical variation across these six communities. Special considerations include collecting word lists and example sentences which document regional lexical variation to the greatest extent possible, while taking care not to privilege one dialect over another in corpuses, lexicons, teaching materials and especially electronic materials. Community members who may be fluent in one particular dialect must be trained to document (record and transcribe) data in multiple dialects as well, without emphasizing one over another (for example, only recording their relatives) or worse, “correcting” dialect differences which to their mind may seem incorrect or lacking in some way. Training in Kumiai literacy is a major focus of an ongoing series of workshops in the Baja Kumiai community over the next three years.
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