Developing consistency by consensus: Avoiding fiat in language revitalization

Twitchell, Lance
Crippen, James
Twitchell, Lance
Crippen, James
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Linguistic !eld work in Tlingit is occurring cooperatively within a triangle of linguists, teachers, and speakers who collaborate electronically and in person between Vancouver, British Columbia, Amherst, Massachusetts, and Juneau, Alaska. Their work makes it into the classroom almost immediately as they collectively refine methods of language documentation, teaching, and revitalization. While the group that works at the deepest linguistic levels of the language is small, they are wide ranging in their backgrounds and geographic locations. This makes small- group email messages and discussions the method of reaching consensus, which opens the door for quick decisions that are then implemented in documentation and teaching methodologies. Historically, Tlingit has been impacted the most by external forces. At times, those were devastating entities like boarding schools, missionaries, and community-wide racism. At others, they were miraculous in terms of language documentation and curriculum development by missionaries and linguists. Today, There are three highly active linguists, in three different locations, and each of them are making tremendous contributions in documenting and understanding linguistic phenomena that native speakers knew intrinsically, but that teachers and students often found difficult if not impossible to document and predict. These three are all working with varying degrees of traits that are external and internal to Tlingit land, culture, and language. There is a non-Tlingit linguist, (co-author), living in Juneau and having the most direct contact with fluent speakers, and often is associated with some of the largest gatherings of speakers of Tlingit today. Then there is the first Tlingit linguist, (author), who is studying outside of Tlingit country and feeding materials into the classroom and through speakers remotely, and is creating handbooks and presentations that will change the way Tlingit verbs and grammar are understood, taught, and learned. Finally, there is a non-Tlingit linguist (co-author), living in Massachusetts and helping refine some of the little-understood territories within Tlingit, like insubordinate clauses and other phenomena. The linguistic discoveries made by these three are implemented into newly developing curriculum and teaching methodologies by the author. He is the first tenure-track faculty in Alaska Native Languages at the university and works collaboratively with the co-authors, and local speakers and teachers to implement shifts in language documentation and teaching. These linguistic activities are combining with an promotional campaign that is initiating a true revitalization for the Tlingit language.
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