Abstracts

Kayla Begay
California Dene Epistemologies, Kinahłdung Songs, and Lessons in Language
This paper examines the language and epistemologies surrounding ceremony and songs sung for kinahłdung, or young women coming of age among California Dene Hupa and Wailaki speaking peoples. In Hupa, the ceremony held for young women is referred to as Xoq'it-Chiswa:l 'on her-they beat/keep time'. Among Wailaki-speaking peoples, the name of a ceremony held for young women appears to more directly refer to word for the young woman who is undergoing the ceremony when recorded by Merriam, Goddard and Li. Li also records <k‘inɑ́łdɑŋ nɑyłɣɑ́l tc’ɛgtc‘iŋ> 'Menstrual (puberty) dances she dances, a girl'. As place-based peoples, some songs for kinahłdung feature places of power and importance to the young woman's world. Emphasized also are the places that the girl comes from. Wailaki "Adolescent Dance Songs" titles recorded by Goddard also suggest advice, animal medicines, along with places of importance.

Colton Brandau
To the (De)Colonial Situation: Language Borrowing(s) and Translation of "Politics" in Dena'ina
This presentation asks two important and interconnected questions on Dena'ina linguistic 'borrowings'. First, what does an investigation and critical study of and engagement with Russian borrowed words in the Dena'ina language reveal about European settler-colonial practices (Russian and later American) in Dena'ina Ełnena? Second, how can Dena'ina linguistic and sound dimensions (re)imagine and decolonize Dena'ina political, social, and spiritual spaces and relations against settler-colonial formations and enactments through the present? This paper offers a Dena'ina-focused sociolinguistic and epistemological analysis of both Russian borrowed words (ushudali; brasdi; gazna; duyuq) and Native verb/noun arrangements (qiy'unch'; duk'idli; ghuliy; qeshqa) as a site of (de)colonization, and how a deeper critical perception of these terms can provide innovative insights into Dena'ina political theories, social relations, and spiritual interconnections. Through these methodological frameworks, I hope to establish connections between Indigenous languages, colonial politics, and social practices in Dena'ina Ełnena within discourses of Native decolonization(s) and reclamations.

Éedaa Heather Burge, Dzéiwsh James Crippen, Shkooyéil Tim Hall, Rose Underhill, K'inchéiyi Tláa Rose-Marie Déchaine
Wooch Een Yéi Jigax̱toonéi Haa Dachx̱ánx'i Sáani Kagéiyi Yís: Tlingit Language Collaboration
What happens if we leverage the epistemology of a language, interwoven with its cultural ontologies, to direct how language knowledge is disseminated? We address this question through the lens of the Tlingit language, reflecting on a developing partnership between the First Nations community of Deisleen (Teslin) and a university research team, exploring how to weave together community-based language revitalization efforts with formal research. The following components make wooch een yéi jigaxtoonéi effective and sustainable: (i) Lingít Yoo X'atángi ka Haa Shagóon ('Tlingit language & culture'): a publicly acknowledged and highly-valued relation between language and culture; (ii) a safe space: a physical and metaphysical language haven which allows language activists to work together toward the goal of creating a community of practice; (iii) a language-led approach: an explicit recognition of the internal logic of the language, understood in its own terms.

Davis Engles
Three Benhti Song Types

Ted Fernald, Sharon Nelson, and Paul Platero
Navajo Patterns of Reasoning
Building on Harris' (1990) work, we consider conjunction, disjunction, conditional sentences, and universal quantification in syllogisms and propositional reasoning. Below is a classic syllogism:

(1) a. Chéch'il t'áá át'é tsin ádaat'é.
All oaks are trees.
b. Tsin t'áá át'é nanise' ádaat'é.
All trees are plants.
c. ∴ Chéch'il t'áá át'é nanise' ádaat'é.
∴ All oaks are plants.

Contrary to Harris' finding for Navajo, we find the following to be invalid:

(2) a. Brenda yiłtsą́ágo ná biłhodeeshnih.
If I see Brenda, I'll tell her for you.
b. Brenda t'áadoo yiłtsą́áda.
I didn't see Brenda.
c. ~∴ (Brenda ) doo ná biłhweeshne'da.
~∴ I didn't tell her for you.

English speakers in logic classes consider similar arguments valid until they consider them more carefully. We find that Navajo speakers are just the same way. The usual conversational implicature explanation for English applies to the Navajo case as well.

Jaeci Hall
Modern Song Creation through Translation: Description of Linguistic Analysis and Use of the Song 'We Will Survive'
This paper shares my experience of weaving linguistic analysis with indigenous identity creation through language revitalization. I will illustrate this through discussing song translation into Nuu-wee-ya' (Tututni), a Pacific Coast Dene language, describing the way the song can support communication and expression of cultural identity. This paper describes the relationship of academic linguistic analysis and song-building through the translation of a modern ceremony song "We Will Survive", adapted from the rock song "I Will Survive". As a member of the generation beyond the generation of indigenous people that did not experience heritage culture due to suppression, I rely on modern indigenous practices along with academic linguistics to support indigenous identity creation. As a learner, I use songs as a way to use language, express my identity, and communicate with others. This paper closes with a discussion of cultural ramifications of translating modern western music into a culturally relevant model.

Joshua Holden and Gina McIntyre
Expressibility of Constant Participants in Denesųłiné Linguistic Situations
Constant participants of a linguistic situation are actants rarely uttered because they are so bound to the verb's meaning—one sees eyes, kisses with lips, etc. Mel'čuk (2004) distinguishes four types with differing degrees of expressibility: Type 1 can't be expressed, e.g. I pitted the olives *of their pits. Type 2 can be expressed only if characterized explicitly, e.g. S/he kissed him with her chocolate-covered lips. Type 3 can be expressed optionally: He shrugged / He shrugged his shoulders. Finally, ty̨pe 4 must be expressed: I stubbed my toe, not *I stubbed (myself). Denesųłiné (Western Canada) has many verbs with constant participants, stems referring to bodily movements or with noun incorporation, particularly of Type 2, e.g. ełyénįní 's/he closed his/her eyes' and tarįchá 'waves are big' However, the semantic fields they represent are quite different with respect to English. In particular, Denesųłiné also has many weather, astronomical and topological verbs that are type 1. This presentation also details uses of verbs involving constant in traditional Dene registers: the semantic specificity of many verbs results in omission of constant participants, and the fact that many verbs hover between types 1 and 2 may be because Denesųłiné has more shared context and a stronger cultural value against verbosity than English. This reflects language-specific features of the conceptual structures of these situations, with attendant semantic and syntactic features.

Joel Isaak
Language and Culture Development Through Modern Texts
Written texts and legacy audio allow for language continuity when faced with decreasing numbers of speakers. Cultural context must be considered when using these resources to develop language resources. Stories are a valuable cultural teaching tool, which have been used across generations to teach cultural and moral values. Bringing stories into modern genre helps bridge the gap between developing written resources and cultural context.

Alessandro Jaker
A Verb Grammar of Tetsǫ́t'ıné Yatıé
In this presentation, I will provide a preview of our forthcoming grammar of Tetsǫ́t'ıné Yatıé, a dialect of Dëne Sųłıné spoken in the Northwest Territories (based on joint work with Emerence Cardinal, Yellowknives Dene First Nation). I will begin by providing the rationale for writing such a grammar. The main reasons we need this grammar are: Documentation of an under-described dialect, Dene literacy, text transcription, and typological interest. The grammar comprises a total of 9 chapters. This grammar differs from other previous Dene grammars in that it provides both underlying forms and surface forms, and also uses both Roman orthography as well as Syllabics. It also makes extensive use of colour-coding, to highlight patterns within the verb, in order to make key concepts more accessible to language learners, as well as fluent speakers learning to read and write.

James Kari and Gerad M. Smith
The Resilience of Dene Generative Geography: Considering "the Nen' Yese' Ensemble"
Smith reviews the geo-archaeological research on Glacial Lake Atna in the early Holocene. Kari introduces a Sapirian theory "the "Proto-Dene Lex Loci" with a geolinguistic analysis of 67 place names selected from five adjacent Alaska Dene languages. A group of names that were coined collaboratively from Nen' Yese' or 'land ridge' offer explicit images of hydrologic conditions and landforms at the times the names were coined. Geotemporal benchmarks may be attainable as paleo-environmental work on GLA advances. Links between Dene place names and 6,000-to-8,000 year-old Northern Archaic sites seem clear. The names presented in Tables 1-2-3 may range in age between 12,000 and 1,000 years. This may be the earliest historical linguistic demonstration of resilient place names from one language family that are fully etymologizable and transparent in their meanings

Olga Lovick
Little Words of Great Importance in Upper Tanana Dene
I discuss three kinds of uninflectable words in Upper Tanana Dene: interjections, predicative adjectives and imperative-only lexemes. Many interjections consist of a 'peg prefix' followed by a stem-like element. Many allow predicative use, which makes it impossible to distinguish them from the group of uninflectable "predicative adjectives" with similar phonological structure and distribution. Distributionally, interjections also resemble uninflectable "imperative-only lexemes", which are however always monosyllabic and not related to other productive stems. All three groups are high-frequency items in everyday discourse and used often even by non-fluent community members. The uninflectability of these items makes them important for language teaching, since they are more easily manipulated by language learners than full-fledged verb forms, and thus can help learners gain fluency.

Olga Lovick, Siri Tuttle, and Sharon Hargus
Glossing Dene Languages
General frameworks for glossing linguistic examples can make the sharing of grammatical information more efficient, consistent and intelligible. Adoption of the Leipzig Glossing Rules (Comrie et al. 2008) has improved grammatical communication for many languages, but language-family facts and conventions can be difficult to integrate into this framework. In response to this difficulty Nau and Arkadiev 2015 have suggested a general framework for the glossing of Baltic languages. In the spirit of that work, we bring up some issues in glossing Dene languages, including semantic vs. positional glosses, inter-analyst consistency, pre-stem syllable portmanteaus, the treatment of zero elements, and the inclusion of boundaries. We give the rationale for our solutions and make comparisons with those of Holden 2013. We discuss data from Upper Tanana, Witsuwit'en, Tsek'ene, Koyukon and other languages.

Jenna May, Jen Rose Smith, Gary Holton, and Kathrin Kaiser
dAXunhyuuga' qaanch' Ga'yaaLinh : Our Language Is Awakening
With the passing of Chief Marie Smith in 2008, Eyak (dAXunhyuuga') became the first Alaska Native language to go silent in modern times. However, this silence did not last long. In 2011 a group of Eyak language learners began developing an eLearning portal and holding language learning sessions both in person and via video conference. At the same time, Michael Krauss initiated efforts to compile all extant Eyak language documentation and create an authoritative reference grammar, dictionary and collection of texts. More recently these efforts have taken a multi-disciplinary turn, combining archival language documentation with contemporary documentation of cultural knowledge and drawing on place-based data collected and analyzed by community members. In this presentation we report on recent progress to foster Eyak language learning, demonstrating how extant documentation can be transformed by use of innovative digital tools; and by connecting to disciplines beyond linguistics, including archaeology, botany, geography, and landscape ecology.

Garry Oker
Looking for my Dreamers Song (Nachine Yina) Design
Beaver/Dene language design thinking begins with our own practice of harmonizing our thinking with archiving technologies combined with hunter's wisdom and creating art beyond the status quo. When I was young I was told my song was on the trail ahead of me. I took a fifty year journey to find out. On the trail I discovered the cosmology of dreamers songs, a time before digital world came into existence. Narratives of Dane-zaa /Dene language give meanings to these songs. I spend my life practicing these dreamers songs with the idea dreamer's songs are brought back from the spirit world through dreams giving me an opportunity to hear these ancient songs and vibrations. In this physical world we are bond by time and through a dialogue with spiritual voices we can create a rebirth of dreaming traditions. In ceremony we can release our creative potential to translate meaning to "when we sing dreamer's song each time just like new"!. The Dane-zaa knowledge is there, we just need to listen to the world by raising our own consciousness. Truth is right. It always comes through reinstate rituals of our drumbeats and songs. The philosophy of seeing is using symbolic memory to communicate understanding of this relationship. The song melodies are design systems of spiritual forces that shape our Dane-zaa Design Thinking, releasing our greatest potential for reclaiming our way through bush camps where knowing, creating and sharing happens in nature.

Keren Rice
Phonological Effects of Contact between Related Languages: Tsiigehtshic Gwich'in and Fort Good Hope Dene
In this talk, I focus on a situation of contact between speakers of two Dene languages, Fort Good Hope (FGH) Dene and Gwich'in (languages of the Northwest Territories, Canada, in different branches of the Dene family), both polysynthetic languages. I propose that contact led to changes that make FGH Dene slightly less polysynthetic in terms of phonological phenomena such as fusion and opacity, than its more closely related neighbor, Délįnę Dene, two varieties that are grouped together by the government as North Slavey. The speech of FGH Dene shows some conservative characteristics not shared by the closely related Délįnę, with, for instance, a clear distinction between lexical and inflectional prefixes. I suggest that a response to contact by FGH Dene speakers was to make the complex morphology somewhat more transparent through both conservatism and innovation, accommodating in these ways.

Conor Snoek and Sally Rice
Metonymic Trends in Dene Ways of Speaking
The interconnectivity between language and culture poses an analytical challenge for linguists because of assumptions about expressive comparability between languages and blindness to differences in semantic framing or lexicalization patterning across languages. Here, we look at Dene languages through the prism of metonymic inference schemas (Panther & Thornburg 2003, 2004) or what Heath & McPherson 2009 call cognitive sets or "non-universal patterns of selective attunement" in how concepts, both nominal and verbal, are lexicalized. Dene lexicalizations are largely metonymic (a part stands for the whole), and frequently also metaphoric. We focus largely on metonymies that enter into how many Dene verbs and derived nouns are lexicalized, providing examples from across the family. The analysis of such metonymic patterns reveals a small but important aspect of Dene Ways of Speaking, significant in its own right, but especially critical for Dene communities faced with re-lexicalizing lost concepts or lexicalizing new ones unimagined by past generations.

Fibbie Tatti and Jasmine Spencer
Some Stories and Songs from Délįnę
In this presentation, we will share some stories and songs from the Sahtú region, including stories of place and a love song. The stories and songs we will share come from Elders who have contributed to a mapping project, as well as from lead presenter Fibbie Tatti, whose decades-long research in her language and community includes working with her parents, with Elders, and with the Délįnę Got'įnę Government, among other projects. Co-presenter Jasmine Spencer will provide some responses to these stories and songs based on her research in the poetics of Dene stories and songs.

Wesley Thomas
Diné Dęęgó Nihizaad Nídaniiłí': Stabilization and Adaptation of Diné Language
Over the past decades, there have been concerted efforts within the Navajo Nation to transmit Diné language to new generations. These efforts can be broadly categorized as conservation, perpetuating and protecting the existing tribal language, and preservation, the effort to keep a language alive.

Both conservation and preservation are key to stabilizing Diné language. At the same time, adaptation or borrowing words from other languages must be addressed in assessing the maintenance of our tribal language. Adaptations in the form of linguistic interchange, borrowing, and appropriation are not new phenomenon. Rather cultural contact historically results in interchanges of material, linguistic, and social practices. The central question is how to conserve and preserve Diné language in the face of change and diminishing fluent speakers to pass on our ways of knowing and living.

Our survival has been at risk since the arrival of colonial-settlers on this continent. As is true for Indigenous peoples globally, our ways of life have been under siege for generations. We see Indigenous languages constantly disappearing over the horizon.

The myth of Western utopia is toxic to our language's survival. Assimilation into mainstream culture is seen as more important than acculturation into tribal culture. Our children are left in a liminal nowhere land. They never fully assimilate into White U.S. culture and they are bereft of their own ancient heritage. Often, our children do not even hear their mother tongue.

Diné bizaad faces a crisis point, where it is threatened with extinction. Little attention has focused on the root causes of this cultural genocide, that is, the persistence of colonization as a force in the post-colonial era. Violence, environmental toxicity and resulting health challenges, and language annihilation through generations of boarding school reverberate to the present. In light of these challenges, conservation, preservation and adaptation models seem to be the most productive course of action.

Siri Tuttle
Learning from Songs, or Why It's Good to Do What You Don't Know How to Do
This talk will address not only the academic questions that arise when a linguist addresses verbal art associated with music - that is, song - but also the process required of a linguist who takes seriously the admonition to be directed by the will of a language community. Specifically, I want to talk about the results of a directive I received from the Minto Dene elders in 2005: to research and record the lyrics of songs in their tradition. I am not a musicologist, and don't even formal musical training. I studied Dene phonology in school and in the field to get my degree.

It is a little difficult to distinguish between direct and indirect results of such an action, because a good part of our work as linguists working with fragile languages is not academic linguistics. In the Alaskan interior, working with Dene people, we operate a little as trading partners, negotiating how we, the culture bearers, and the learners will spend our time and what results are desired. There are several kinds of results to report on here, of which academic linguistics is ony a part.

  • Organizing, naming and archiving: Minto Songs Project (NEH HD-50298-08)
  • Collaboration with musicologist Håkan Lundström at Lund University (Project Speech and Song: Investigating the Borderland)
  • Repatriation: Connection to Rooth collection at Uppsala
  • Learning who sings, supporting composition: working with young composers
  • Supporting song study: helping community members access archival material
  • Sharing lyrics: draft after draft.
  • Publishing on song language:
    • How words are different when sung
    • How words are set to music in Minto tradition
    • How linguistic rhythm and musical rhythm interact, and how that could inform the study of linguistic rhythm
    • How phonology and melody interact in song, and how no single explanation can handle all the complexity
  • Thinking about our language work relationships, power relations and colonial attitude

The partnering relationship - partnering where distinct roles are known and respected - has allowed some interesting things to come from the Minto elders' directive to me. The fact that the work did not grow from an initiative of mine, but from an initiative of theirs, made this happen. It makes sense that the list of results includes not only linguistic papers, but also project-building, support for community work, collaboration with an ethnomusicologist, and even research into intrinsic pitch.

We spend a lot of energy demonstrating our academic capacity: our analytical, organizational, rhetorical ability. I think my experience demonstrates the potential of listening, a skill we may not practice as fully as we could. The ability to listen analytically may be at the heart of linguistic documentation, but unless we can also listen with our human hearts, we may miss the chance to do something we don't know how to do.

Edward Vajda
The Origins of Classificatory Verb Morphology in Na-Dene
Tlingit, Eyak and Dene languages are compared to argue that elaborate morphologies for classifying verbal arguments was not a feature inherited from Proto-Na-Dene but instead arose separately in each daughter branch. Tlingit developed an elaborate series of classificatory prefixes using incorporated nouns or reanalyzed conjugation markers. Proto-Dene-Eyak developed shape-classifying (gender) prefixes from mostly different morphological sources. The separate Eyak and Dene sub-branches each later developed quite different elaborations of this system. Eyak continued to add more shape-classifying prefixes, while Dene languages innovated suppletive verb stems expressing classificatory distinctions. The presentation investigates whether areal influences from typologically diverse North American languages fostered these developments. Contact with a Haida-like language may have stimulated the rise of classificatory prefixes in Tlingit and early Dene-Eyak, as well as in later Eyak. Classificatory verb stem suppletion in later Dene languages may instead have been influenced by Siouan-like lexical differences in postural verb roots.