Monday, October 5, 2009

Brown bag talk on Tuesday, October 6

Paul Pigott will be giving a brown bag talk on Tuesday, October 6 from 12:00 - 1:00 in the seminar room (SN 3036).

Sea ice knowledge in Labrador Inuttut: overwhelmed by English

Inuit on the Labrador coast are shown to have a comparatively complex system of classifying and describing sea ice: knowledge now held by Inuttut speakers over 40 years of age or older. Inuit Elders use up to 60 specialized concepts in their own words: Inuttut concepts like ‘ajugak’ a lead or crack used for hunting, fishing and travel. Interviews involving 24 speakers aged 37-79 show a decline in linguistic competence such that the youngest participants knew fewer than a dozen words. The extinction of at least 200 other North American speech communities since contact should be a warning about how quickly they can vanish and permanently alter the ability of future generations to experience the oral history of their ancestors. That is still not the situation in Labrador today. But inspired efforts to teach younger speakers must be made if Inuttut, a fundamental element of Canada’s linguistic history, is to survive into the next generation. The positive result of this study for Labrador Inuit is its documentation of an oral tradition that persists in its eloquent description of ice conditions along the Labrador Coast.

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