Workshop in Norman aids tribal members in language recovery

Indian tribal members worked to revive and record their languages in a workshop this week at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: May 26, 2012

Participants at a workshop this week at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History worked on reviving Indian languages no longer widely spoken.

“Oklahoma Breath of Life: Silent No More” offered help with recording languages that otherwise might get lost because fluent speakers of the languages are dying out, organizers said.

Tribal members participating in the workshop learned how to set up language databases, create dictionaries and grammar books and translate stories into bilingual formats. Each was paired with a linguistic mentor to help with specific language needs.

The mentors guided participants through methods of linguistic analysis and methodology, which they could then take back to their communities to use in ongoing efforts at reviving a tribal language.

“Breath of Life” workshops started in 1996 in California. The Sam Noble museum sponsored its first workshop a year ago.

A renewed grant this year from the National Science Foundation has allowed the program to continue.