Unangam Tunuu Practicum


Anna Berge (amberge@alaska.edu)

Moses Dirks (ml_dirks@yahoo.com)

Practicum information

This practicum may be taken for university credit. It is offered through UAF Summer Sessions and is listed as: Ling 431/Anth 432 and Ling 631/Anth 632: Introduction to Field Methods I.


All participants taking this practicum will have participated in the 2-week series of CoLang workshops immediately preceding the practicum, including the workshop on Unangam Tunuu.

[Unangam Tunuu Workshop Syllabus]

Particpant Learning Objectives

This practicum provides an introduction to issues specific to working with little studied, endangered and “sleeping” languages. Participants will learn:

  1. how to work with archival materials
  2. transcribe existing recordings
  3. interpret previous field data and analyses
  4. create original language research from archival materials
  5. understand the ethics of working with archival materials

Instructional Methods

Lecture, discussion, group activities, assigned readings, archival research

Practicum Description

This practicum focuses on fieldwork on a sleeping or less accessible language using archival materials. Sleeping languages are languages that are not actively being spoken but that have been documented and that are being revitalized with the help of the documentation. Less accessible languages are those which are not easily accessible to the language worker for a number of reasons, including geographic, financial, social, or political constraints on travel to a community, lack of speakers in a given community, etc. Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut, ISO 639-3 ale) is a less accessible language: it is highly endangered with fewer than 100 fluent speakers, and travel to various speaker communities can be costly and difficult because of their remoteness and extreme weather conditions. The language has been very well documented from the 19th century to the present. The archival record includes linguistic field notes, native writings, and many sound and video recordings; most are still unpublished and these materials are housed at the Alaska Native Language Archive.

The class will introduce students to using archives; using raw data (in both written and audio forms); transcribing; identifying gaps in both documentation and analysis of existing documentation; using archives for directed linguistic research; and creating a variety of products from the results of archival research, including papers and reports, dictionaries, grammars, maps, apps, language learning and teaching materials, etc. The class will consist of morning lectures by faculty and guest experts; guided activities pertaining to the day’s topic; and group discussions and analyses of the activities. Students will be required to choose a research topic requiring in-depth use of the Alaska Native Language Archive’s Collection of materials on Unangam Tunuu, and to create a product which will be completed and presented during the final two days of the class. The product may take a number of forms: it may be a research paper on a linguistic feature of Unangam Tunuu; a language learning lesson; or other documentation or applied linguistic product.


Preliminary Readings (subject to modification; full list not yet available)

O’Toole, James M., Cox, Richard J. 2006. Understanding Archives & Manuscripts (Archival Fundamentals Series). Society of American Archivists.

Woodbury, Anthony C. 2011. Archives and audiences: Toward making endangered language documentations people can read, use, understand, and admire. In David Nathan (ed.), Proceedings of Workshop on Language Documentation and Archiving. London: Hans Rausing Endangered Language Project, SOAS.

Further readings to be determined by student research topics

Preliminary Schedule

Proposed plan of day for the first two weeks:

9-10:15 Intro to topic of day
10:30-11:15   Guided activity 1
11:45-1 Lunch
1-2:15 Troubleshooting and guided activity 2
3:45-4 Recap

On the last day of each week, there will only be one guided activity, and there will be a quiz on the week’s materials in its stead

During the last week, guided activities will be replaced with guided research time; the last two days will consist of student presentations and discussion thereof; and final products of the research will be due.

In this calendar, guest speakers are named provisionally, but topics for their presentations are placed where they may be most useful to students.

Evaluation Metric

Attendance is mandatory. There will be two quizzes and a final product. The final product may take a number of forms: it may be a research paper on a linguistic feature of Unangam Tunuu; a language learning lesson; or other documentation or applied linguistic product.

Disabilities Services

Disability Services, a part of UAF’s Center for Health and Counseling, provides academic accommodations to enrolled students who are identified as being eligible for these services. If you believe you are eligible, please visit http://www.uaf.edu/disability on the web or contact a student affairs staff person at your nearest local campus. You can also contact Disability Services on the Fairbanks Campus at 907-474-5655, by email at uaf-disabilityservices@alaska.edu.

Date Topic
Week 1 Focus on using archives Introduction to archives, how they are organized, principles of use, physical and digital archives, working with existing documentation, understanding gaps in documentation and description
Week 2 Focus on individual research topics Choosing a research topic, lexical and phonetic analysis, non-traditional forms of documentation, teaching materials preparation
Week 3 Focus on Products How to prepare a product (academic paper, user lexicon, lesson materials, etc.), ethics and archives

Date Topic Week 1 Week 2 , Week 3