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Minority Languages Talk – Henke

March 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Opening Doors Through Language: Acquisition, Documentation, and Revitalization

Ryan Henke

University of Hawaii-Manoa

This talk overviews my work in language acquisition, documentation, and revitalization to illustrate how such work addresses language-related issues of access, disparity, and equity in Indigenous communities in North America. For example, the efforts of language science in child language development and language teaching can help support better educational, health, and economic outcomes in Indigenous communities. This talk primarily focuses on my work with Northern East Cree (NEC), a dialect of the Algonquian language Cree, which is spoken in Northern Québec. NEC represents one of the few remaining Indigenous language varieties north of Mexico still acquired as a mother tongue in a traditional manner. In one case study, I discuss how three children between the ages of two and six acquire the NEC possessive suffix –im. In linguistic descriptions of the adult-level grammar, –im has a complicated distribution governed by multiple grammatical factors. However, the children seem to adhere to straightforward patterns in child-directed speech to guide their acquisition of the suffix. These findings have implications for not just the scientific understanding of how children acquire Indigenous languages like NEC but also for community efforts in child language development. I discuss how this acquisition research also intersects with language documentation and language revitalization, provide some additional examples from my work in these areas, and outline future directions for research.


March 9, 2020
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


7191 HCW
7191 Helen C. White Hall