August 06, 2004

The Navajo Language Academy

I spent the 19th through the 23d of July at the Navajo Language Academy session at the San Juan Campus of the College of Eastern Utah, in Blanding, Utah. Blanding is not connected very directly to the major air hubs, so I flew to Albuquerque and rented a car. By an amazing coincidence, it had an appropriate license plate:

Rental car with license 711 NLA

Here's what the route through Northeastern Arizona looks like. This is near Many Farms.

Near Many Farms

The NLA is devoted to the scientific study and promotion of the Navajo language. It runs courses on theoretical and applied linguistics and holds research workshops.

Some of the linguists involved in the NLA are non-Navajos. One who played an important role was the late Ken Hale, seen on the right at the 2001 session in Rehoboth, New Mexico.

At the Navajo Language Academy 2001

In the foreground at left is Aryeh Faltz, author of The Navajo Verb, and in the middle is Ted Fernald. Navajo is unusual in that there are a number of Navajos with advanced training in linguistics. In the background at left is Ellavina Tsosie Perkins, one of three Navajos with Ph.D.s in linguistics. (The others are Mary Ann Willie and Paul Platero.) Here she is holding forth at this summer's session.

At the Navajo Language Academy 2004

Unlike most other native American languages, Navajo is still in widespread and active use. Most adults speak Navajo; indeed, most of the older generation don't speak English. The Navajo Nation radio station, KTNN ("50,000 watts of Indian power"), broadcasts in both Navajo and English. There are music programs in which the DJ speaks Navajo, news broadcasts in Navajo, and advertisements in Navajo. At the NLA, some courses are conducted in Navajo, and some colloquium talks are given in Navajo. Even so, Navajo is endangered, since most of the current generation of children do not speak the language.

Posted by Bill Poser at August 6, 2004 03:55 PM