Chinuk Wawa: Kakwa Nsayka Ulmantilixam Laska Munk-k?mt?ks Nsayka/As Our Elders Teach Us to Speak It

Feb 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Media Reviews

Chinuk Wawa: Kakwa Nsayka Ulmantilixam Laska Munk-k?mt?ks Nsayka/As Our Elders Teach Us to Speak ItBy The Chinuk Wawa Dictionary Project
Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde
Community of Oregon (2012)
494 pages

Review by Jurgita Antoine

Chinuk Wawa, also known as Chinook Jargon, originated as a pidgin trade language in the Pacific Northwest coastal region. It is based on Chinookan languages, with contributions from English and Canadian French. In the Grand Ronde community of Oregon, Chinuk Wawa has been taught and used as a heritage language.

Fortunately for language learners, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon initiated a dictionary project that resulted in this useful language learning resource. It is well-documented and comes complete with a pronunciation key, word etymologies that document the adaptation and continued development of the language, and examples of how individual words are used in sentences.

This resource has several sections. The main body of the dictionary contains words used in the Grand Ronde community. A separate, regional section adds more words used in the greater lower Columbia River Basin. The dictionary’s “English Finder” offers users an English–Chinuk Wawa index. There is also a short history of the language and the Indigenous community, an alphabet key and explanation of symbols, and a grammar overview. The final section of the dictionary includes 100 pages of conversations, stories, songs, and writings, as well as biographical sketches of the speakers who served as resources for the dictionary.

What makes this dictionary authentic is that the authors connect the language with specific families in the community. Contributing speakers’ biographical sketches and photographs illustrate the language’s place in the community. Moreover, this reference is an example of community-guided linguistic work and language teaching that would be a valuable addition to Native studies collections and classes. The Chinuk Wawa dictionary is an excellent cultural resource that stands as a monument to the survival of Chinuk Wawa and its current revitalization.

Jurgita Antoine, Ph.D., is a project director of Lakota Documentaries at Sinte Gleska University.

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