They don’t borrow from English or French.[...] The word they use for automobile means “that it has wrinkled feet,” which is, incidentally, an example of how the words you have reflect your culture. If you’re a tracker, you’re going to be noticing the tire tracks—the focus of that particular word.Language Leakage: An Interview with Sarah Thomason
Waltzing Matilda is the bush ballad that introduced elements of Australian slang to generations of Americans. Instantly recognizable but less familiar is Waltjim Bat Matilda a version by Darwin-based Indigenous singer Ali Mills. She’s singing in Kriol, which is spoken by more people than any other language exclusive to Australia and is based on the highly endangered Gurindji. Waltjim Bad Matilda is also the name of Mills’ first solo album after performing many years with the Mills Sisters.
Martin Gusinde documented the life and rituals of the Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego, off the southern tip of South America from 1918-24. They had been nearly wiped out by a genocide led by Julius Popper, the Tyrant of Tierra del Fuego, their numbers reduced from an estimated four thousand to only a few hundred. Now a book has been published containing hundreds of Gusinde's photos. Forty-five photos are available on the National Library of Chile's website. The last native speaker of Selk'nam, Herminia Vera Illioyen, died in 2014. That same year, linguist Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia completed a reference grammar of Selk'nam. His friend Joubert Yanten Gomez, a young Selk'nam, has taught himself the language. Selk'nam and efforts to preserve it are one of the languages profiled in Judith Thurman's A Loss for Words, an essay about whether dying languages can be saved.
The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
Where Are Your Keys? (WAYK) is a language-learning game that starts with identifying a few simple objects and builds into a conversation dealing with abstract concepts — in the space of an hour or two, with minimal supplies. [more inside]
After years of work, New Zealand scholar Sally-Ann Lambert just released volume 2 of her 9-volume linguistics series. “Hlingit Word Encyclopedia: The Origin of Copper” is a 630-page encyclopedia of the SE Alaskan native language Tlingit. She traveled to Sitka for a mid-January book release and found one little problem: none of the Tlingit native speakers or scholars there recognized the language in it. [more inside]
Language, culture, society and the frameworks used to define experiential reality; living a good life, pathways of decolonization
An internationally recognized Kanien'kehaka (Mohwak) intellectual and political advisor, Taiaiake Alfred is well known for his incisive critiques and groundbreaking work in the fields of Indigenous governance and political philosophy. In the past, Taiaiake has served as an advisor on land and governance and cultural restoration issues for many indigenous governments and organizations, and he has authored several important books including Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom and Peace, Power, Righteousness. Currently, Taiaiake serves as a Professor of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria. Recorded March 23, 2009 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, University of Victoria Professor of Indigenous Governance; a broad, deep, and beautiful discussion of pathways toward the future for indigenous people, Gerald Taiaiake Alfred talks about the “Resurgence of Traditional Ways of Being: Indigenous Paths of Action and Freedom” [more inside]
"Cultures at the far edge of the world" (YT) and "The worldwide web of belief and ritual" (YT). Two TED talks by anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis (previously) on the diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and their beliefs, and the richness of the "Ethnosphere," which he describes as "the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness." [Via Mind Hacks]
Until 400 years ago, the Ainu controlled Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands. Today they are a small minority group of Japan. They are a hunting and fishing people whose origins remain in dispute. Long before the people who would come to be known as "the Japanese" completed their migrations from the Asia mainland, the islands of Japan were already inhabited by a race of people known as the Ainu ("human"). On this northernmost island, (Hokkaido), in the "snow country," there still may be found remnants of this once proud and vigorous people who roamed the Japan islands long before the Japanese themselves arrived.More links inside [more inside]
every two weeks a language becomes extinct. there are ~7,000 human languages on earth, but that number is estimated to halve by the end of the century. swarthmore hosts extensive information about endangered languages, and the mission of the living tongues organization is to preserve and revitalize such languages.