Opening Keynote: Saturday, 9th March (10am)
The mutual value of linguistic work with Indigenous communities: A perspective from Ngarinyman (Australia)
Jessica Denniss, University of Toronto
In the context of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, I discuss my involvement with fieldwork on Ngarinyman, an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in the Northern Territory. Drawing on my own two months of fieldwork with Yarralin-based speakers, and on the 20+ year collaborative relationship between several other linguists and communities, I focus on the tangible value of linguistic work for both community members and for the field of linguistics more generally. For Ngarinyman people, their right to use their native language is of immense importance for innumerable reasons; in this talk, I focus on just a few, including its significance in expressing connection to Ngarinyman country, and in remembering and sharing their history and personal stories. Importantly, linguists can partner with community members on projects that not only document this knowledge but make it accessible to community members and the wider public. This dialogue is foundational for reconciliation and community development, as it builds understanding between Ngarinyman people and the wider public, and addresses the history of colonial violence, displacement and inhumane treatment.
To showcase how linguists can develop meaningful connections and collaborations with community members that continue long after fieldwork is complete, I discuss some of the community projects I have been involved with, such as a forthcoming Ngarinyman dictionary, which is the result of a 20+ year collaboration between several Ngarinyman communities, interpreters, linguists, an anthropologist and an ethnobiologist.
As I aim to show, for the field of linguistics, work on Indigenous languages makes an important contribution to our understanding of the nature of natural language by introducing new data that must be accounted for within one’s theoretical framework. By way of example, I discuss my work on complex predicates in Ngarinyman, showing how this pushes us forward in our understanding of the syntax and semantics of complex predicates cross-linguistically.
Closing Keynote: Sunday, 10th March (2pm)
Language maintenance and revitalisation in Brazil: a case study
Suzi Lima, University of Toronto
Brazil is a multilingual country: approximately 160 Brazilian Indigenous Languages are currently spoken in Brazil and for around 55% of them, comprehensive language documentation is not available. Language documentation has become a critical tool for language maintenance (through bilingual education) and revitalization strategies across the country. In this talk, I will give an overview of some of the language maintenance and revitalization projects in progress in Brazil and explore in more detail the process of documentation of the Kawaiwete language and the process of creation of the Kawaiwete pedagogical grammar. More particularly, we will show how dialectal variation can be addressed in this kind of material and how theoretical linguistics is instrumental in the preparation of pedagogical materials.