Ahtna Language Infrastructure and Training (A-LIT)
This project has two goals. One is to teach Ahtna people about the language materials previously collected by anthropologists and linguists available to them, and the second is to create new Ahtna speakers through the use of these materials. One of the goals of the Documenting Endangered Languages Program is to provide wider access to documentary materials. The Program solicitation also encourages language investigators to find innovative ways of training native speakers in descriptive linguistics. The project by PIs Cain and Charley-John would accomplish these objectives. While 'wider access' generally refers to digitization or other means of treating linguistic materials so that they can be shared through current technological media, this project aims to widen the access of Tribal members themselves through training in linguistic analysis. Given the extreme endangerment of a language that has, apparently, fewer than 100 speakers, all of whom are elderly, providing access to the ethnic population that has the greatest stake in its preservation is the major contribution of this researchl. Using Breath of Life methodologies proven to be successful in other communities to enhance that access is an excellent way to begin the training of the speakers in linguistic analysis. The hands-on homework/project plan proposed by the PIs enhances the possibilities for success in this project. A language with as few speakers as claimed in this grant for Ahtna could be urgently in need of documentation. Unfortunately, while the proposers indicate that there does exist documentation within 'the Ahtna archive', specifics are not made available within the grant. That 'dictionaries, language curriculum materials, audio and video recordings, transcripts, photo archives and documents' exist and are available to the Tribe for their study is not substantially documented within the grant. It is, therefore, difficult to assess their quality or their accessibility for the project and to declare its intellectual merit on that basis. However, the participation of elders who are speakers of the language assures that language data will be available to the tribal member student groups for further documentation in addition to transcription of existing materials, no matter the quality of those materials.