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Reflections on emerging language in adult learners of Nuwä Abigip an Indigenous language of California

Date

2021-08-31

Authors

Grant, Laura Marie

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Abstract

In 2001, an estimated 50 Indigenous languages were spoken in California, USA; none had more than 100 speakers. Through statewide efforts by Indigenous language workers and their allies, revitalization strategies have since proliferated, many highlighting immersion learning and linguistic documentation. In their homeland in Tehachapi, California, two fluent Elders and five learner/teachers designed this study as co-researchers to reflect on the effects of strategies we had implemented to support new speakers of nuwä abigip (Kawaiisu), a polysynthetic Uto-Aztecan language. Our community-based team used methods of dialogic inquiry including the conversational method and a graphic language mapping technique. We videotaped remembered stories of our varied language acquisition experiences, focusing especially on the 15 years after community language revitalization was initiated. The collection of videotaped narratives and the graphic language maps were analyzed to understand how the new adult second-language speakers believed our learning experiences had enabled us to use nuwä abigip. Co-researchers remembered nuwä abigip competencies believed to have been gained though a sequence of strategies, some overlapping, that featured immersion learning complemented by linguistic analysis. Common patterns in language development were explored, especially as they related to learners’ unfolding understanding of the language’s rich morphology. The team concluded the study by reflecting on how the two research methods of dialogic inquiry had aided them in expressing the culmination of their experiences.

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Keywords

Indigenous language, Indigenous language of California, Indigenist methodology, small speaker community, language revitalization, language acquisition, developmental sequences or stages, dialogic inquiry, teaching and learning an Indigenous language, language development, community-based research, polysynthetic language, Uto-Aztecan, reflective study

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