Plenary Talks


The Steps plenary, held on the first day, serves as an introduction to the Institute and provides an overview of the entire process of documentation and maintenance, from conceptualization of a project to post-production of linguistic analysis and language-learning materials. It introduces the various aspects of a documentation project and how they fit together. It notes the particular instructors and workshops that speak to each step. In 2016 the Steps presenters will be Kennedy Bosire, Kenyan, of the Ekegusii Dictionary and Encyclopedia project, and Jenny Davis, Chickasaw, of the University of Illinois. Both Kennedy and Jenny serve on the CoLang Advisory Circle.


These one-hour plenary presentations, held each day following lunch, provide real-life examples of model documentation and conservation projects that are built on collaborative principles. Language workers describe the methods, advice and concerns of their experiences.

Models talks are free and open to the public.

Monday, June 20
Intergenerational Approach to the Deline Mapping Project 

Fibbie Tatti 

Ms. Tatti was born to the Sahtuotine First Nation on Great Bear River in the Northwest Territories, Canada and she is a fluent speaker, writer and storyteller of the North Slavey Language. She has been a major force in bringing Dene languages and culture to prominence for more than 30 years. Her talk includes her on-going mapping project based on her MA thesis, “The Wind Waits For No One Nı̨hts’ı Dene Ası̨ ́ Henáoréhɂı̨ ́ le Ǫt’e: Spirituality in a Sahtúgot’ı̨nę Perspective.”

Tuesday, June 21
Including children in language documentation and revitalization

Lauren Gawne and Barbara Kelly

Language documentation and revitalization projects often focus on adult speakers of a language. While it is important to work with adults, it is also important to include the broadest range of speakers possible, including children. Working with younger speakers can give novel insights into a language, encourage greater community participation, and increase interest in language transmission across generations. Documentation of the language use of younger populations also creates a record of child language use, and child-directed speech, which are important for developing pedagogical materials and any future revitalization work. In this talk we discuss some of the advantages for the inclusion of children in both language documentation and revitalization projects. We then present some of the practical techniques and tools for working with children to elicit different kinds of language use via story books and games. Finally, we explore different recording, transcription and data analysis methods in child language and how these can me tailored to fit the needs of differing language use contexts.

Wednesday, June 22
Teaching Through Distance Education

Susan Paskvan 

In this session, students will learn what is involved in teaching indigenous languages through distance education. Distance education could be teaching via two-way video-conference, Google Hangout, audio, or asynchronous technology platforms.  Distance education involves building relationships with students; working with on-site classroom teachers; preparing lessons in advance; sending materials in advance; delivering and assessing instruction and continuing professional development.  The course content will include the curriculum framework; a typical lesson plan for both elementary and high school and assessment tools for each.

Thursday, June 23
Guided Conversation for Language Documentation and Revitalization

Mizuki Miyashita and Tracy Hirata-Edds

 Documenting conversation is an emerging field for endangered languages, but is limited by a lack of information available about its importance and the logistics of carrying it out, especially for native communities.  Elicitations, word lists, and narratives have long been among the main methods of language documentation, with conversations less spotlighted, perhaps partly due to the complexity of output (e.g., re-starts, unclear references, overlaps) and challenges for recording (e.g., conversants’ relationships, unnaturalness, topic selection).  Conversation is the use of language for sharing information and interactions, making it a fundamental form of communication which incorporates linguistic knowledge.  Our presentation on guided conversation will address this important component of language use, which must be documented to provide context for linguistic features and to serve revitalization activities.  We advocate this approach as an enhancement to standard documentation as well as to scripted and/or free conversation approaches and share some logistical suggestions and examples from our experiences.

Friday, June 24
Language Documentation in our own Front Yard: working on documentation projects with refugees and students in the US

Michal Temkin Martínez

Nearly all states in the US have at least one designated refugee resettlement city in them, with most states having more than two cities. These resettlement cities are in metropolitan areas with universities nearby. The presence of refugees brings not only a rich collection of cultures, but also a rich set of languages – some of which are undocumented or under-documented, providing young linguists and both undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to document languages in their own cities while serving the needs of displaced speech communities.

Although it is certainly less than ideal to conduct "fieldwork" in the diaspora, we believe that important work can and ought to be accomplished in this setting. In addition to learning valuable linguistic field methods skills, students working with these populations also exhibit higher levels of cultural competence than their peers and are better equipped to work with this vulnerable population after graduating. Further, we believe we have a responsibility to any community concerned for the status of their heritage language, even those residing half a world away from their original setting. In 2012 alone, more than 58,000 refugees from 85 different countries and territories were settled in the US, Guam, and Puerto Rico. With the current refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, many more will be resettled in the next few years. Although the specific circumstances of the refugees’ plight are unique due to issues of resettlement in foreign countries, there are many parallels between the experiences of refugees and those of displaced indigenous peoples. In this talk, we will discuss these similarities, while also detailing the refugee resettlement process and specific issues that linguists may encounter while working with refugees.

The latter portion of the talk will consist of video testimonies from the six speakers with whom we’ve been working who will speak about their experiences documenting their languages and working with faculty and students in both the field methods course and on individual projects for their communities.

Monday, June 27
The Seminole Nation Language Project: Combining Master-Apprentice Classes with Language Documentation

Delaney Pennock, Sarah Martin, and Alex Hicks

This language documentation project began in August, 2015. The chief of the Seminole Nation wanted to create a lasting record of elders speaking the language (Muskogee, also called Seminole or Creek). The team has been making videos of elders speaking the language. The videos are being transcribed and translated by three students paired up with three speakers. The students first took a four-week Master-Apprentice course. They then spend ten hours per week working with speakers to transcribe and translate videos (using a combination of ELAN and SayMore). The draft site is up at

Tuesday, June 28
Language Revitalization & The Arts

Allan Hayton

This workshop will focus on engaging in language revitalization through the arts. The arts can be a way to get people involved in a fun and creative environment, and develop long term commitment to language learning.

The instructor will share his experiences in developing theatre projects involving endangered Indigenous languages, including a Tlingit language Macbeth that was presented at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Alaska Native language productions of King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream that toured across Alaska, and a proposed Romeo & Juliet in Gwich’in & Inupiaq languages. The theatre can create a space for endangered languages to come to life, and can engage the imagination in the language classroom for educators and learners.

Attendees will spend their time learning strategies for integrating the arts into language revitalization. The arts directly engage a variety of learning styles, visual, kinesthetic, auditory, as well as engage emotions in language learning, build self-worth and pride of accomplishment, provide opportunities to learn new skills and strategies, develop critical thinking and the ability to creatively approach and solve problems, foster self-discipline, teamwork and leadership capacities… all qualities essential to successful language revitalization.

Wednesday, June 29
Fieldwork in the Caucasus

Alice Harris

This talk compares fieldwork in the Caucasus with fieldwork in other areas, emphasizing differences. It compares fieldwork four decades ago with fieldwork now, looking at changes in communication, equipment, and more. It describes good experiences and bad (illness), and does not omit funny experiences.

Thursday, June 30
CoLang business meeting