Reconstructing Narratives of a Dormant Language: The Case of Chimariko

Jany, Carmen
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Some of the main pitfalls of working with narratives from archival materials are the often imprecise translations, the lack of interlinear translations, and the difficulty to verify data. The latter is especially true when working with a dormant language where corroboration of analyses by working with native speakers is no longer possible. For some languages, however, archives represent the only source of data available to communities and linguists today. Frequently, such archives contain invaluable cultural and historical information, but the data is inaccessible to communities. This paper reports on the process of reconstructing Chimariko narratives from two archival sources: the Harrington materials and the Dixon data, and making them more accessible. Chimariko is dormant language from north-western California. The most extensive data collection from Harrington consists of thousands of handwritten pages, including over 500 pages of narratives (Mills 1985). Dixon published a grammatical sketch (Dixon 1910), but his data is flawed due to phonological inaccuracies (Sapir 1911). Both data sets contain personal narratives, myths, and stories relating to historic events. This paper illustrates the steps taken to piece together the narratives from both sources and to combine them into a single accessible corpus. This entails phonological and orthographic adaptation, connecting scattered pieces of narratives, filling gaps in interlinear and free translations, and grammatical analyses to enable interlinear glossing. Grammatical analyses and translations complement and inform one another, as shown in (1) where missing translations are provided. Crucial for the development of the corpus is a recent grammar based on the Harrington materials (Author 2009), allowing for grammatical parsing and analyses of the texts. Example (1): Harrington 021-179 tapmu hapimtat ˀuwelaˀe hapimtat qʰoqʰu tapmu h-apim-ta-t ˀuwela-ˀe h-apim-ta-t qʰoqʰu DIR 3-play-DER-ASP boy-3POSS 3-play-DER-ASP two [He was playing over there, my boy was playing with two (boys).] hačmukčʰa hahatat, hahatat hačmut tapmu, hačmukčʰa h-aha-ta-t h-aha-ta-t hačmut tapmu axe 3-pick.up-DER-ASP 3-pick.up-DER-ASP axe DIR [He picked up an axe, he picked up an axe over there.] Although Chimariko is no longer spoken, there are several dozen tribal descendants identifying as Chimariko (2010 US Census). Given that the corpus contains rich cultural and historical information, the data provides an excellent record on which to base possible language and culture revitalization efforts. Overall, this work highlights the importance of archival material for languages with no current speakers and shows how sketchy narrative data can be made more accessible to communities and to linguists for further study. References Author. 2009. Chimariko grammar: Areal and typological perspective. University of California Publications in Linguistics 142. Berkeley: University of California Press. Dixon, Roland B. 1910. The Chimariko Indians and Language. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 5:5. Berkeley: University of California Press. Harrington, John Peabody. 1921, 1926, 1928. Field notes on microfilm. John Peabody Harrington Collection. Smithsonian. Volume 2: reels 20-24. Mills, Elaine L. ed. 1985. The Papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution 1907-1957 Vol. 2: A Guide to the Field Notes: Native American History, Language and Culture of Northern and Central California. New York: Kraus International Publications. 49-56. Sapir, Edward. 1911 [1990] Review of Roland B. Dixon: The Chimariko Indians and Language. The Collected Works of Edward Sapir V: American Indian Languages. William Bright ed. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 185-187.
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