Group in American Indian Languages

The Group in American Indian Languages (GAIL) is an occasionally meeting series that brings together individuals interested in indigenous languages of the Americas for a potluck dinner and presentation. If you would like to receive periodic emails updating you about our activities, join the Friends of the Survey email list.

Current and upcoming events

Amy Rose Deal presenting on Nez Perce, November 2015
Amy Rose Deal presenting on Nez Perce, November 2015 (photo courtesy of Zachary O'Hagan)

April 12, 2017

Group in American Indian Languages

Brook Lillehaugen

Past events

February 22, 2017
Group in American Indian Languages

Caquinte Information Structure
Zachary O'Hagan

    November 16, 2016
    Group in American Indian Languages

    Zapotec language documentation and revitalization in Teotitlán del Valle
    Julia Nee

    The purpose of this talk is to overview a number of language documentation and revitalization activities that have taken place in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico over the past year. I will discuss the process through which the community’s language committee developed a new orthography for the language, as well as made steps towards the creation of street signs in Zapotec, two activities that have had great practical and symbolic consequences on how speakers view their language. I will consider barriers to progress in the creation of new revitalization materials, as well as a number of ways that these barriers can and have been avoided. I will address ways that I have integrated revitalization work into my overall language documentation project, as well as propose steps for the future.

      September 7, 2016
      Group in American Indian Languages

      Dinner, introductions and discussion of people's summer fieldwork and activities

        April 27, 2016
        Group in American Indian Languages

        Expressive Clitics in Kwak'wala
        Katie Sardinha (University of California, Berkeley)

        Cross-linguistically, expressive language tends to be a locus of various kinds of anomalies. In this talk I investigate some distributional and semantic properties of a set of expressive clitics in Kwak'wala, a Wakashan language spoken on the central coast of British Columbia, and ask whether they present any anomalous properties when viewed relative to the grammar of this language, and to cross-linguistic patterns. Specifically, I discuss the clitics =bidu 'diminutive (singular)', ='məniXw 'diminutive (plural)', =dzi 'augmentative', =Gas 'poor thing', and =kəna'l 'how nice', along the way chronicling key aspects of the fieldwork methodology I used to study them.

        Within words, expressive clitics in Kwak'wala follow a common cross-linguistic pattern of appearing on the border between derivational and inflectional material. Within sentences, their distribution shows a certain kind of 'exhuberance' that expressive elements are sometimes noted for: namely, expressive clitics can appear on the predicate, on arguments, on modifiers, and on auxiliaries, and may re-occur in several different places within the same sentence (though apparently not within the same prosodic word). While this distributional exhuberance could suggest that expressive clitics are an anomalous class within the grammar, I'll question to what extent this is actually the case given comparable distributional properties of inflectional material in the language more generally, especially the future tense clitic (=tlh).

        Next, I'll show that expressive clitics behave semantically like expressives on the theory of Potts (2007). Yet while expressives on Potts' theory convey only speaker-oriented meaning, I'll discuss some preliminary data suggesting that a subclass of expressive clitics, the diminutives and the augmentative, convey information about size, potentially making them descripive-expressive hybrids and furthering an existence claim for such elements made by Fortin (2011) with respect to Spanish 'connotative' suffixes. Finally, I'll consider whether the distribution of expressives constrains or biases their interpretation, specifically with respect to who or what the expressive is 'about', or targeted towards.

        Along the way we'll look at methods designed to elicit expressive clitics in a fieldwork context, recognizing that there are unique challenges involved in the elicitation of the expressive dimension. I will also highlight what I've learned about why studying expressive language is important to speakers and communities, and will talk about what led me to work on this topic in the first place.

          February 17, 2016
          Group in American Indian Languages

          Ikíitu language revitalization and (re)valorization: from 2001 to 2016, and beyond
          Christine Beier (Cabeceras Aid Project)

          This talk explores the complex, winding, and fascinating trajectory of revitalization and (re)valorization of the Ikíitu language (a.k.a. Iquito; Zaparoan; ~15 elderly speakers) within the Ikíitu heritage community, as seen from my perspective as a participant in the ongoing Iquito Language Documentation Project (ILDP). Initiated in 2001, and designed with a core revitalization component, the ILDP provides a useful temporal frame within which to examine key changes and developments in the community-internal status of the Ikíitu language, anchored to a broader context of historical, social, economic, and political facts and factors. In this talk, I will discuss how various attitudes toward the language, both positive and negative, have been expressed in the Ikíitu community of San Antonio de Pintuyacu, Loreto, Peru, over the years, not only through overt discourse — ranging from informal conversation to reported speech to political rhetoric — but also more subtly through community members’ and leaders’ actions and inactions; and I will describe how these attitudes are fundamentally implicated in shaping the future of the language.