Language Revitalization and Maintenance

Living Languages

Living Languages - Lenguas Vivas - Línguas Vivas is a new journal entirely dedicated to language revitalization and sustainability. The journal brings together language revitalization practitioners from a diversity of backgrounds, whether academic or not, within a peer-reviewed publication venue that is not limited to academic contributions and is inclusive of a diversity of perspectives and forms of expression.

Chief Editors: Luiz Amaral (UMass) and Gabriela Perez-Baez (U. of Oregon)

Current Projects

Reading Proficiency in Chatino

Chatino is an Otomanguean language from Mexico spoken in the state of Oaxaca. Similarly to other indigenous languages in Latin America, there have been several attempts to develop alphabets in Chatino, most of them with a focus on how to best capture the phonological properties of the language. However, to our knowledge, no attempt was ever made to understand the challenges that the proposed alphabets create to speakers of the language, especially in a context where most of them are older bilinguals that learned how to read and write in Spanish before attempting to read in their own language. This project looks at the development of reading abilities in Chatino with a special focus on phonological awareness and decoding. It explores how certain orthographical choices create problems to learners and how specific activities that foster phonological awareness can help adult learners improve their reading skills in the language. (PI: Isaura de los Santos)

Pedagogical materials for minoritized language instruction

This project started as a series of consultations to create pedagogical grammars for Brazilian indigenous languages in 2013. Almost ten years later, it became a full-fledged research project into how pedagogical materials and activities for language transmission can be designed to fit the language planning specifications of revitalization projects for indigenous languages. Several publications present some projects and discuss their theoretical and practical implications for language transmission in revitalization contexts, among them: Amaral (2020a, 2020b, 2018, 2011, and to appear), Amaral et al (2017), Silva, Amaral and Maia (2014). See this page for references. There are also videos in Portuguese introducing topics on language revitalization that can be found here or on this YouTube channel. (PI: Luiz Amaral)

Reclaiming physical and communicative spaces for language revitalization

This is a new project that aims at using second language instruction techniques for language revitalization purposes in situations where there was an interruption in intergeneration language transmission. The scenarios where we are testing this technique involves formal or semi formal instructional contexts with teachers who can speak the language and learners who cannot. The approach proposes the development of specific materials for communicative situations where certain vocabulary and language forms are to be used. We use a series of activities to expose learners to the target language in controlled environments, and then physically move the activities to the space in the community where the communicative situation should take place. Unfortunately the two pilots that were supposed to take place in 2020 had to be postponed because of the pandemic. We are currently attempting to reschedule the activities. (PI: Luiz Amaral)

Recursion Across Domains

An international collaboration between the Language Acquisition Research Center at UMass and the Linguistics Program at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro created a series of research activities focusing on recursive structures in different languages around the world. Among them, there was an international conference on Recursion in Brazilian Languages and Beyond in 2013, and a volume called Recursion Across Domains published by Cambridge University Press in 2018.

Previous Projects

The Acquisition of Positional Verbs in Zapotec

This project presented a description of the positional verb system in Yalalag Zapotec, and looked into its acquisition by bilingual children in the Yalalag community. The results were presented in Ana Alonso's dissertation defended in 2021. (PI: Ana Alonso - Universidad de Quéretaro)

Wapichana Bilingual Acquisition and Language Description.

Wapichana is an Arawak language spoken in the state of Roraima (Brazil) and in Guyana. The goal of this project was to study bilingual acquisition by individuals who speak Wapichana, Portuguese and English. Some of the publications cover the acquisition of recursive relative clauses headed by the relativizer "- uraz", and of recursive genitive constructions. Another paper came out on the negation system in Wapichana. This project was initially funded by a Healy grant in 2013 and was interrupted in 2020. (PIs: Luiz Amaral - UMAss and Wendy Leandro - University of Guyana).

First Project on Pedagogical Grammars for Brazilian Languages (2013-2015)

This project was the second phase of the PRODOCLIN documentation project coordinated by the Museu do Índio (Rio de Janeiro) and sponsored by the Brazilian Government and UNESCO. The goal of the project was to produce pedagogical grammars in 5 different native Brazilian languages: Ikpeng, Karajá, Kawaiweté, Paresi and Wapichana. The project started in July 2013 and ended in August 2015. (PI: Luiz Amaral)

Pedagogical Grammars for Otomanguean Languages (2015-2018)

Similarly to the Brazilian project described above, this project supported the creation of pedagogical grammars in several Otomanguean languages spoken in Mexico. The summer workshops happened between 2015 and 2018 and received the support of the INALI (Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas) and Biblioteca de Investigación Juan de Córdova.