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PUBLISHED: 4:26 PM on Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Native languages to be documented with aid of grant
Sealaska Heritage Institute
Sealaska Heritage Institute has received a three-year grant to document the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian languages.

The $240,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the institute to record, transcribe, translate and publish 90 hours of narratives and conversations in the three indigenous languages of Southeast Alaska (30 hours of each language).

Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian are among the most endangered languages in the world. Most fluent speakers are elderly and the institute has sponsored numerous programs to teach the languages to young people before the fluent speakers pass away. SHI has produced some semi-fluent speakers who are now teaching the languages to others.

One of the goals of the project is to give students a lasting opportunity to hear the languages spoken fluently by Native speakers in a conversational context, rather than having to solely rely on instructional lessons and recordings.

"It is of critical importance that these languages be documented in conversational contexts for other reasons besides language revitalization. These recording will provide insights to the social realities of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian when they are expressed in their Native languages and which unfortunately have been historically excluded from schools. Additionally, they provide a record for linguists to study the structural or grammatical features of these languages which can then contribute to the development of curriculum

material for language restoration" said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting the materials will be an additional benefit to linguists currently studying Tlingit.

Tlingit, Northern Haida, and Tsimshian are spoken in Southeast Alaska and to some degree adjacent portions of Canada. Research indicates that Tlingit is spoken by approximately 500 of the roughly 10,000 Tlingit people in Alaska (although SHI surveys suggest that this estimate is generous). Northern Haida has four known fluent speakers in Alaska, with perhaps another 10 in British Columbia. Tsimshian has an estimated 20-25 fluent speakers in Alaska, with perhaps 500 more in Canada.material for language restoration" said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting the materials will be an additional benefit to linguists currently studying Tlingit.

Tlingit, Northern Haida, and Tsimshian are spoken in Southeast Alaska and to some degree adjacent portions of Canada. Research indicates that Tlingit is spoken by approximately 500 of the roughly 10,000 Tlingit people in Alaska (although SHI surveys suggest that this estimate is generous). Northern Haida has four known fluent speakers in Alaska, with perhaps another 10 in British Columbia. Tsimshian has an estimated 20-25 fluent speakers in Alaska, with perhaps 500 more in Canada.


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