USask linguist works to sustain endangered Indigenous language – News

Olga Lovick listens to recordings of Upper Tanana in her office. (Photo: Allain Esquivel)

A group of teachers in one of the villages where Upper Tanana is spoken is already using Lovick’s book to help create lesson plans for teaching the language.

“This makes me very happy,” said Lovick.

Upper Tanana has little in common with English and other European languages, and can be challenging for English speakers to learn.

“A verb in Upper Tanana will Frequently correspond to an entire sentence in English. So all of the information that we would put into a sentence, they put into a verb. That means that creating a verb is a challenging endeavour. It requires you to know the pieces and what they mean, and then you need to know how to put them together according to the rules. And then once you put pieces together, they will influence each other’s shape,” said Lovick.

Of the roughly 6,000 languages ​​currently spoken on Earth, only 10 percent are expected to survive into the next century. Preserving the uniqueness of those languages ​​is a worthy goal, said Lovick.

“Language is one of the filters we use to look at the world. There are many connections between language and culture and thought. These are different things, but they’re intertwined in very complex ways. If we lose a language, then we lose access to one of the ways in which we can understand how people think about things, how people perceive things.”

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