Teaching our Yellowknives Dene Languages
Principal Investigator: Jaker, Alessandro M (9)
Licence Number: 15122
Organization: Goyatiko Language Society
Licenced Year(s): 2014 2013 2012 2009 2008 2007 2005
Issued: Jul 06, 2012
Project Team: Alessandro Jaker (Linguist, Goyatiko Language Society), Mary Rose Sundberg (Executive Director, Goyatiko Language Society)

Objective(s): To produce two published materials, in Dogrib and Chipewyan: an intermediate-level reader, and a verb dictionary that teachers can use in the classroom, to teach Dene culture and languages.

Project Description: This project will produce two published materials, in Dogrib and Chipewyan: an intermediate-level reader, and a verb dictionary. The reader will contain elders' stories on topics from Dene Kede, with a focus on animals: the research team would like to include at least two short stories on each animal in both languages. The verb dictionary will list at least 200 verbs in each language, with the complete paradigm for each verb (all 27 forms), and example sentences taken from the stories. The goal is to produce high-quality materials that teachers can use in the classroom, to teach our Dene culture and languages.

Making language teaching materials begins with elders, since they are the ones most knowledgeable about Dene languages and culture. The study will begin with one-on-one interviews with elders, where they are asked either to tell stories (for the reader) or ask them about verb forms (for the verb dictionary). The project team will recruit elders over the telephone, by calling them at their house. Elders are chosen based on which elders have expressed interest in working with the team, at community meetings, and elders that have worked with the team in the past. The linguist (Alessandro Jaker) then writes down what the elders have said, with the help of younger speakers, including our four trainees at Goyatiko. Finally, before sending the materials off for printing, the team will have one or more meetings with a group of elders to look over the final version and make sure there are no mistakes.

There will be many opportunities for local involvement. The team will work with elders individually, to provide the content, in the form of stories or verb paradigms, which will be transcribed and make into teaching materials, and the team will also meet with elders as a group (8-10 local elders) to proofread the final version of any materials before they are published. The team of four trainees at Goyatiko will help transcribe stories in Dogrib. The team will also offer at least two classes in Dettah on teaching methods and materials development, which will be open to all community members (other first nations also welcome), and pending funding, at least one class in Lutselk'e (8 days) on Dene literacy and grammar, with a focus on Chipewyan. The team will involve local language teachers at YK1 and YK2 in helping us to design teaching materials in Dogrib and Chipewyan. Finally, the team will also encourage local youth to get involved, by helping to produce two board games, one in Dogrib and the other in Chipewyan, as decided at a language planning meeting.

In making teaching materials, the ultimate goal is that these materials be used in local schools. Thus the results of the study are made available to local teachers and students in language classes. In addition, the research team plans to distribute one copy of these materials, for free, to each household in Dettah, Ndilo, and Lutselk'e. Finally, the principal investigator will teach at least two courses in Dettah, on developing language teaching materials and one course in Lutselk'e, on Dene literacy and grammar, pending approval of funding.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 6, 2012 to November 30, 2012.