Resounding the clarion call: Indigenous language learners and documentation

Mary Hermes, Mel M. Engman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper we discuss a five-year Ojibwemowin documentation and description project and illustrate how we adapted the documentation agenda in response to reclamation goals, in particular, with an eye to the needs of language learners. The science of documentation no longer stops at preservation; the groundswell of demand for respect for the intellectual and linguistic rights of Indigenous peoples must be considered. There is a call to action by and for speakers of Indigenous endangered languages, although how that action should occur is often unclear. This project offers one case to illustrate the negotiation of relationships among participants who held multiple roles (Elders/speakers, applied linguists, advanced language learners – many are tribal and community members and some work for universities) to show how consideration of Indigenous peoples’ intellectual and linguistic rights can shape a documentation project for language reclamation. We critically examine the processes and priorities of Anishinaabe language learners who have skills to document conversations and produce linguistic transcriptions. We discuss how in this process new priorities for documentation emerged, including a focus on everyday language, meaningmaking, inclusive documentation norms, and collaborative analysis. This represents a traversing of discourses: our research engaged with the dominant paradigms for documentation funding and training, but also a commitment to remain responsive to an interpretation of what was dictated by community needs. We argue that our focus on language reclamation within this project pushes the documentation paradigm to shift in particular ways. We conclude by urging other researchers to consider how documentation work should be shaped by goals of reclamation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-87
Number of pages9
JournalLanguage Documentation and Description
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2017

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Resounding the clarion call: Indigenous language learners and documentation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this