Blurring the Lines

Marnie Atkins
Lise Dobrin
Gwendolyn Hyslop
Chief Ferdinand Mandé
Tim Thornes
Karma Tshering
Racquel-María Yamada

Course days, time, and location:
6/29, 6/30, 7/1, & 7/2
1:30 - 3:15
Pacific, Room 110

Course Information:
As members of endangered language communities take on more active roles in research into their languages, there is a need to examine our assumptions and reframe what constitutes "ethical" research.  During this four-day workshop, we explore ways of building effective partnerships between outsider academics and insider speech community members that emphasize shared strengths and encourage working toward mutually-determined and mutually-beneficial goals.  In addition, we discuss such sensitive topics as unpacking underlying assumptions and emotional involvement.  We draw primarily on our own experiences as researcher/activists working to develop projects that meet the needs of all members of a research endeavor.

For each topic area, we will begin with either a brief literature review (where appropriate) or a case study example drawn from our own experiences.  There is an emphasis on shared experience and multiple perspectives, and active participation is expected.  Small groups of participants will discuss each topic in terms of the ethical issues raised and the greater theme of developing more community-inclusive methodological approachs.  This workshop is designed for practicing linguists, graduate students in linguistics, and language activists at any level, as well as for participants who fit more than one category.

Course Documents:

Instructor(s) Bio:
Marnie Atkins is a citizen of the Wiyot Tribe.  In 2009, she graduated from Humboldt State University with a BA in Native American Studies and a Specialization in Federal Indian Law.  Currently, Marnie is in her first year as a graduate student in the Native Language Teaching Specialization Program (NLTS) at the University of Oregon.  She worked as the Language Program Coordinator and Cultural Director/Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Wiyot Tribe for several years and as the Coordinator for the Live Your Language Alliance, an alliance of tribal language teachers, workers, and activists in Northern California.  She has participated in the Breath of Life, Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, and the Northwest Indian Language Institute.  Marnie has been working towards revitalizing Sulótalak (commonly known as Wiyot) since 2002.  She is a strong advocate for respectful teaching, learning, revitalization, and reclamation of Indigenous languages.

Lise Dobrin is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Linguistics Program at the University of Virginia. Her fieldwork experience is with the Arapesh languages, spoken on the Sepik coast of Papua New Guinea; she now has an ongoing language documentation and archiving project based on that work (see She has engaged extensively with issues of social process and ethics in linguistic and ethnographic research, and has expertise in the institutional review of cross-cultural fieldwork protocols. In addition to her linguistic scholarship and disciplinary activism, she has been doing work in the history of anthropology, using the published writings, unpublished fieldnotes and correspondence, and biographies of earlier researchers on Arapesh language and culture (Margaret Mead and Reo Fortune) to reconstruct how they set up their fieldsites and conducted themselves, to see how their research was affected by personal factors, and to explore the way documentary projects are situated in history and culture.

Gwendolyn Hyslop (PhD candidate, University of Oregon) has been conducting fieldwork on Tibeto-Burman languages of Bhutan and northeast India since 2006. She is currently director of the Kurtöp Documentation Project, a collaborative team-based project devoted to the documentation, description, and preservation of Kurtöp, a Tibeto-Burman language of northeastern Bhutan. She has been working actively with the Bhutanese government to devise ’Ucen (Tibetan-like) orthographies for all of Bhutan’s minority and endangered languages. She has authored and co-authored several publications on aspects of Kurtöp phonology and grammar, as well as articles on the historical placement of Bhutan’s languages. Her dissertation, A grammar of Kurtöp, is expected this summer.

Chief Ferdinand Mandé has been working since 1995 to document the Aretyry dialect of Kari'nja.  He has worked with non-Kari'nja researchers on projects in several academic disciplines.  Since 2004, he has worked in partnership with Racquel Yamada on documentation, description, preservation, and revitalization of his native language.  He has led a workshop for members of two other Kari'nja communities on language documentation and revitalization, and presented a paper on collaborative linguistic fieldwork to the 2008 meeting of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics in French Guiana.

Karma Tshering (Team Member, Himalayan Languages Project) is a native speaker of Dzongkha and was trained in Classical Tibetan at the Simtokha Rigzhung Institute in his home country, Bhutan. He has worked as a language consultant, helping to produce the first grammar of Dzongkha in 1992, revised in 1998. He has also been a team member for several linguistic and genetic research projects in Bhutan and surrounding areas, co-authoring several articles on both topics.

Tim Thornes volunteered to work with the last speaker of Yahooskin, an undocumented dialect of Northern Paiute, in the summer of 1994.  Together they produced a beginner’s phrase book and ethno-historical study for the Klamath Tribes of south-central Oregon.  He has since worked with speakers of the Wadateka’a (Burns Paiute) and other area dialects from eastern Oregon and northern Nevada.  In Burns, he co-founded a language preservation group called Neme Apichaade Semenna (People Speaking Together) and published weekly blurbs in the Tu Kwa Hone newsletter on the language while also working on his dissertation, “A Northern Paiute Grammar with Texts,” which he defended in 2003. He has presented and published widely on aspects of Northern Paiute grammar and has served as an instructor with the Northwest Indian Languages Institute (NILI) and the University of Oregon’s Summer Session in Language Documentation. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Linguistics in theDepartment of Writing at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Racquel-María Yamada is a graduate student in Theoretical Linguistics at UO.  She has extensive grant-funded fieldwork experience working with community members in Konomerume, Suriname to document, describe, preserve, and revitalize their dialect of Kari'nja.  She has worked as an instructor with the NILI Summer Institute and UO Summer Session in Language Documentation.  She has research interests in Field Methodologies and Ethics, and has published a paper that describes some of her collaborative work in Konomerume (available here:  She has worked as a language teacher and teacher trainer, and has experience as a classroom teacher at all ages and levels.

                                                        Updated June 21, 2010 12:48 pm