Ojibwe Language Revitalization Focus of New NSF/NEH Grant

National Science Foundation (NSF) Dynamic Language Infrastructure (DLI)

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Documenting Endangered Languages (DLI-DEL)

A team of researchers in Linguistics and American Indian Studies have been awarded an NSF/NEH Dynamic Language Infrastructure grant for their project, “Developing Indigenous scholars, curriculum and language documentation.” The three-year, $450,000 project, led by PI Claire Halpert (Linguistics), Co-PI Nora Livesay (American Indian Studies), and Co-PI Brendan Kishketon (American Indian Studies), takes a multifaceted approach to language revitalization for the Indigenous language Ojibwe. For languages with a small number of speakers remaining, there is an urgent need not only to document the linguistic knowledge of these speakers, but also to make both new and existing linguistic knowledge readily available to the public, while supporting the next generation of speakers. For the Ojibwe community, this work is especially urgent due to the advanced age of fluent speakers, and the high death toll of Covid-19 for American Indians. This project addresses these needs in three main ways. 

First, the project contributes to documentation through new linguistic work with living speakers of Southwestern Ojibwe in Minnesota, and through curating and annotating audio and written historical language materials that have not been previously accessible to scholars or the public. These materials will expand the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary, edited by Co-PI Livesay, a widely-used online dictionary of Southwestern Ojibwe, and will be used to create the first annotated open-access linguistic corpus of the language. Additionally, researchers will be able to explore new language topics with Ojibwe speakers, further expanding the audio resources in the Dictionary. 

Second, the project will expand and improve pedagogical materials for teaching second-language learners in the Ojibwe Language Program, directed by Co-PI Kishketon. The project will update existing materials and make them more accessible, while supplementing with additional audio and written materials from work with fluent speakers. Finally, the project focuses on mentoring and training Indigenous language workers by providing linguistic training and research experience for graduate students and recent BA graduates, developing a workshop for prospective college students at the American Indian Summer Institute, and developing linguistics coursework to address the needs of students involved in language revitalization. Beyond the creation of accessible language materials and curriculum development, the project will facilitate the broader scientific contributions of Indigenous project personnel, giving them an opportunity to explore linguistic topics related to their own research interests through direct elicitation with speakers and close study of conversational texts.

Meet the Research Team:

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