Native American language resources

8 Feb

Yesterday I got a chance to hear Kayla Carpenter, Maryrose Barrios, and Justin Spence talk about preserving California Indian languages. (Kayla and Justin are grad students in the Berkeley linguistics department; Maryrose is an undergrad doing physics, including preservation work on really old audio records of native songs, stories, etc.)

If you’re a linguist, there’s all sorts of stuff to look at. If you’re a Native American, resources are getting easier and easier to get at. (There’s a lot of sensitivity to the idea that earlier work between researchers and community members ended up sending stuff into a black box, so current folks are trying to make both new and old materials more accessible for non-linguists.)

Thanks to Justin for sending me not just a list of resources but notes on them, too:

At a national level, you might want to check out the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian and the American Philosophical Society (this latter one is where Sapir’s notes are and Sapir studied lots of languages around the turn of the last century and took really good notes).

California has historically had the greatest density of native languages and folks at Berkeley have been archiving stuff for a long time. There are four main archives:

  • P.A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (it’s got pre-1950 audio stuff).
  • Bancroft Library (paper stuff, pre-1950)
  • Post-1950, you can consult the Berkeley Language Center (audio) and the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages (paper stuff). They’ve recently combined their catalogs to make searching easier: There are a lot of digital resources here (scanned images and digital audio).
    • (It sounds like you can find records of what’s at the Hearst using CLA, too.)

Regional archives also have surprising stuff. Justin gives two examples:

  • Pliny Earle Goddard’s materials on Californian Athabaskan languages are mostly at Bancroft and the APS, but his Lassik notebooks are at the University of Washington (Melville Jacobs Papers collection, they are apparently marked up with Harry Hoijer’s annotations).
  • J.P. Harrington’s archives are mostly at the National Anthropological Archives, but the Barbareno Chumash materials are in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Finally, Justin says the best summary of archival materials for languages of California is in Victor Golla’s recent book:


One Response to “Native American language resources”

  1. here June 3, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    As soon as I initially commented I clicked on the Notify me when new comments are added checkbox and currently each time a remark is added I receive four emails with the same comment.

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