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Minority Languages Talk – Rouvier
March 12, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
“My language saved my life”: Identity, Wellbeing, and Language Reclamation
University of California-Berkeley
Language loss and reclamation is inextricably linked to broader issues impacting speakers and communities, ranging from physical, mental and social wellbeing, to identity and self-determination. In this talk I introduce a multidisciplinary, collaborative working group of researchers and practitioners which is exploring these connections, and summarize our results to date. I then share my related research on emotion within the Yurok Tribe’s language reclamation program in northwest California. Through ethnographic interviews and participant observation with language reclamation participants, I identify common themes across learners, as well as individual differences and unique perspectives on Yurok reclamation. I contextualize my findings within three theoretical frameworks: positive psychology in language learning, Indigenous approaches to language reclamation, and culturally-grounded conceptions of mental health. This research reveals the complexity of these learners’ engagement with their ancestral language, as well as the extent to which their experiences emerge from personal, cultural, and historical contexts.