The Mohican Language Re-Awakened: A virtual event with Chris Harvey
October 8, 2021
Language “extinction” is typically declared at the passing of the fluent speakers of a language: in the case of Mohican, that would be in the 1930s. However, remnants of these languages live on in the memories Elders today, places in the landscape, in written documentation, and the desire of people to reconnect with a fundamental aspect of their culture. So long as these factors exist, a language is never extinct, instead it waits for a time when it can be re-awakened.
We are fortunate to have sufficient linguistic and historical documentation in Mohican to develop a strong understanding of how the language works and sounds, and to reconstruct a comprehensive vocabulary. There is a strong drive among many in Indigenous communities to re-awaken dormant languages. To do so requires a confluence of skill sets, passion, support, time, and sacrifice. We are at an exciting and crucial stage in the re-awakening of Mã'eekaneeweexthowãakan (Mohican) as an Indigenous community language. This talk will cover documentation that form the basis of the revitalized Mohican language, how the rebuilding process works, the progress that dedicated learners have made, and what the next are.
Chris Harvey is the Mohican Community Linguist for the Stockbridge-Munsee Nation. Together, Harvey and the Mohican community are working to bring back the Mã'eekaneeweexthowãakan language, last fluently spoken in the 1930s, into modern daily life. He is run on-line courses for learners, a pattern-review class, and a conversational course. He is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, focusing on Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Celtic linguistics with specializations in phonology, sociolinguistics, and language revitalization. Chris is the founder of http://www.languagegeek.com, an on-line source of Native-language technology and typography.