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How language documentation and revitalization help in understanding language history, and vice versa: A case study from Unangam Tunuu (Aleut) and Sugt'stun (Pacific Coast Yupik) - Anna Berge

4:15 PM, Samedi 5 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Just as understanding another person’s perspective can help in one’s own life, understanding one field of study results in a better understanding of the needs of the other field. In this paper, I discuss how work on language documentation and revitalization can inform studies of a language’s history, and vice versa, drawing on my experience with Eskaleut (EA) and in particular of Unangam Tunuu (UT), formerly known as Aleut. On a

project to document UT and create adult language learning materials, I had to describe UT morphosyntax in sufficient detail for language learners; in so doing, I discovered substantial heretofore unidentified differences between UT and Yupik/Inuit languages, such as in strategies for combining words, or for expressing causation. These, in turn, led me to investigate differences between Yupik/Inuit languages and UT more systematically, and to explore the possibility of prehistoric language contact as a source of these differences. In looking at borrowing patterns between UT and the neighboring Yupik language Alutiiq, I discovered gaps in the documentation of place naming strategies, making it difficult to establish the origins and meanings of place names, despite excellent collections of place names themselves, and despite community prioritization of indigenous names, including the creation of new names. This led me full circle back to documentation efforts.

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