Language Revitalization Working Group

The Language Revitalization Working Group critically examines theories, methodologies, and applications of language revitalization in a variety of world contexts. It provides a centralized venue for interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners of language revitalization to share, present, discuss, and improve their language revitalization efforts. In 2020-2021, we are co-sponsored by the Center for Race & Gender and happy to publicize a series of events hosted as part of Linguistics department courses (251 & 198) on language revitalization. 

In fall 2020, we will meet (roughly) every other week, on Wednesdays from 4-5 virtually via Zoom. Additional meeting times/dates are marked with an *asterisk below. If you aren't on the mailing list and would like access to a meeting link, please email Martha Schwarz ( or Julia Nee (

For more information, or to be added to our mailing list or bCourses site, contact Martha Schwarz ( or Julia Nee ( If you'd like to attend any of our events but have questions/concerns about accessibility or other accommodations, please reach out via email!

Fall 2020 Meeting Schedule:

August 26: Welcome back! 

During this meeting, we'll take some time to share a bit about ourselves, our interests, and what we're hoping to learn over the course of the semester.

September 2: Henry Sales (This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies)

My name is Henry Sales, I am from Guatemala, a native Mam speaker, from the town of San Juan Atitán, I currently live in Oakland, CA. I speak Mam, Spanish and English, and I have a passion for preserving Mayan language and traditions, as well as providing for the underserved Mayan populations in the U.S. I used to work as a Mam language interpreter, co-founder of the Mayan dance and performance group, I lead the Mayan soccer team, teach a Mam language class at Laney College and Oakland High with Mam speakers, worked at the San Francisco public library, and coordinate volunteer, outreach, and service events for and with various Mayan communities. Above all I take pride in celebrating the Mayan language and culture and I invite you to do the same. I am an activist, a teacher, a volunteer, and an advocate for mistreated and underrepresented Mayan populations. I am an Administrative Assistant Trilingual III at the Rudsdale Newcomer High School. 

*September 10: Wes Leonard (Miama Tribe of Oklahoma & UC Riverside)

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, September 10 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

*September 23: Vincent Medina (Muwekma Ohlone) & Louis Trevino (Rumsen Ohlone) on "Recovering Ohlone"

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, September 23 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

September 30: Sumittra Suraratdecha (This event is co-sponsored by the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at Berkeley)

*October 8: Angel Sobotta (Nez Perce Language Program) on "Story Work and Star Work"

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, October 8 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

*October 15: Trisha Moquino and a Virtual Field trip to Keres Children's Learning Center

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, October 15 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

*October 22: Zalmai Zahir (Lushootseed Language Program)

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, October 22 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

*October 27: Cheryl Tuttle (Round Valley Schools) on "Games and Language Play"

Note: this talk takes place Tuesday, October 27 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Beth Piatote ( for a Zoom link.

*November 5: Isaac Bleaman (UC Berkeley) on "Revitalizing Hebrew and Maintaining Yiddish"

Note: this talk takes place Thursday, November 5 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Line Mikkelsen ( for a Zoom link.

*November 17: Greg Sutterlict (Yakima Language Program) on "COVID and Language Revitalizaiton"

Note: this talk takes place Tuesday, November 17 from 2-3:30pm. Contact Beth Piatote ( for a Zoom link.

Spring 2020 Meeting Schedule:

January 29: When a community isn't asking for language revitalization, what's next?

A discussion of ethics around how/whether to talk about language endangerment in communities where the language isn't seen as endangered, guided by two readings:

Henze, Rosemary and Kathryn Davis. 1999. “Authenticity and Identity: Lessons from Indigenous Language Education.” Anthropology & Education 30(1): 3-21.

Pérez-Báez, G. (2014.) Addressing the gap between community beliefs and priorities and researchers’ language maintenance interests. In G. Pérez-Báez, C. Rogers, & J. E. Rosés Labrada (Eds.) Language Documentation and Revitalization in Latin American Contexts (pp. 165-194). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

For access to these readings, please email Julia at

February 12: A discussion with Mary Hermes (University of Minnesota)

In anticipation of Mary Hermes's talk at Fieldwork Forum at 4pm, we'll be reading and discussing selected papers from Hermes, and she will join us for a discussion of that work. We will read "Designing Indigenous Language Revitalization" (Hermes, Bang, and Marin 2012) and "New Domain for Indigenous Language Acquisition and Use in the USA and Canada" (Hermes, Cash Cash, Donaghy, Erb, and Penfield 2016). For access to the readings, consult our bCourses page or write to

February 26: Language revitalization in contexts where English isn't the matrix language: How do you prioritize multilingual language learning when access to English isn't guaranteed?

Next Wednesday, Feb. 26th 2-3pm in Dwinelle 1303, we will be talking about language revitalization in contexts where the matrix language is not English. How do you prioritize multilingual education when proficiency in a globally-dominant language is a commodity that is not accessible to everyone? How are language ideologies different in places not colonized by English-speaking powers? In preparation for the meeting, we hope that you will read two papers:

Kosonen, Kimmo. 2008. "Literacy in Local Languages in Thailand: Language Maintenance in a Globalised World" International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 11:2, 170-188

Sharma, Bal Krishna & Prem Phyak. 2017. "Neoliberalism, linguistic commodification, and ethnolinguistic identity in multilingual Nepal." Language in Society. 46: 231-256.

For anyone interested in further reading on this topic, we also recommend Mohanty (2010) "Languages, inequality, and marginalization: Implications of the double divide in Indian multilingualism." 

The readings are available on our bCourses site, but email if you are having trouble accessing them.

March 4: Participatory Action Research in Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec Language Revitalization (Julia Nee, UC Berkeley) (note: talk from 2-3, questions until 3:30)

One common barrier to language revitalization is the presence of an “ideology of contempt” towards a language as a result of colonial and racist practices (Dorian, 1998). But the role of language ideologies in shaping language use is profound (Silverstein, 1979; Wollard & Schieffelin, 1994; Irvine & Gal, 2000; Kroskrity, 2006; among others), and language revitalization projects will not be successful in the long run if the negative language attitudes that supported language loss are not addressed (Dauenhauer & Dauenhauer, 1998; Hinton, 2001; Bradley, 2002; Beier & Michael, 2018). In strategizing ways to revitalize Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec use through Participatory Action Research, or PAR (White et al., 1991; Czaykowska-Higgins, 2009; Tuck, 2009; Martin et al., 2018), involving interviews, focus groups, and photovoice (Wang & Burris, 1997) with language activists, parents, and children, one common theme that emerged was the importance not only of teaching linguistic forms and structures, but also of building a supportive community of language learners and users. In this talk, I explore how PAR was implemented in Teotitlán, and how insights gained through using this methodology have allowed for improvements to the Zapotec language camps for kids that have been hosted since 2017.  Specifically, I consider speaker-learner interactions and student-generated work (such as creative storybooks) to better understand the ways in which community-building activities such as field trips to archaeological sites increase learner investment (Pavlenko, 2001; Riestenberg & Sherris, 2018) and lead to greater acquisition and use of Zapotec among children. Additionally, I respond to previous calls in the literature to expand the range of genres studied in language documentation (Meek, 2011; Vallejos, 2016), and I argue for the importance of documenting the language revitalization process itself as a way to better understand how language is (or is not) being transmitted intergenerationally.  

March 18: Radical/non-uniform/multiliterate approaches to orthography development

This week, we will read and discuss the following two articles, available on bCourses. The discussion will take place virtually via Zoom, and a link will be sent out at 2 on Wednesday. 

Lillehaugen, B. D. (2016.) Why write in a language that (almost) no one can read? Twitter and the development of written literature. Language Documentation & Conservation 10:356-393.

Essegbey, James. 2015. "Is this my language? Developing a writing system for an endangered-language community. In James Essegbey, Brent Henderson, and Fiona McLaughlin (eds) Language Documentation and Endangerment in Africa. John Benjamins. p. 153-176.

April 1: Using historical documents with language learners in revitalization

This discussion, led by Edwin Ko, focuses on ways in which historical documents can be used with learners as part of language revitalization. As part of this discussion, it's recommended that you read "Ethics and Revitalization of Dormant Languages: The Mutsun Language" (Warner, Luna, & Butler 2007 in Language Documentation & Conservation) and "Teaching Wailaki: Archives, Interpretation, and Collaboration" (Begay, Spence, & Tuttle, Manuscript - not for circulation). Both articles are available at our bCourses page.

April 15: Developing pedagogical materials

In this discussion, led by Emily Drummond, we'll consider how education, language documentation, and pedagogical materials creation intersect and interact. Our discussion will be grounded by "Integrating Documentation and Formal Teaching of Kari'nja: Documentardy Materials as Pedagogical Materials" (Yamada 2011) and "Is Revitalization Through Education Possible?" (Hornberger & De Korne 2018, in the Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization). 

April 29: Reflection on how we will incorporate what we've talked about this semester into our upcoming projects

During this meeting, we'll reflect on what we've learned throughout the year's discussions that might be applicable to our ongoing LR work, and to the creation of new and evolving LR and other community-centered projects especially in light of Covid-19. Some questions to reflect on before/during our discussion include:

1) What expertise do others involved in the community where I work have? What expertise can I bring to the communities where I work? What expertise is needed? What expertise do I lack? What expertise could I gain? How could I gain that expertise?

2) How has my relationship with the community where I work shifted or stayed the same over the past few months? What new needs have emerged? What new barriers have emerged or been dismantled?

3) What projects can I work on now? In the near future? In the distant future? What's one new concrete thing/activity I can bring into my work?

Fall 2019 Meeting Schedule:

September 05: Welcome! 

At our first meeting, we'll all introduce ourselves and discuss our interests in this group. We'll go over some proposed readings/speakers for this semester. As a way to frame the discussion, we invite you to read Hinton_2018_Introduction_What_is_Language_Revitalization.pdfPreview the document in order to frame your ideas about what language revitalization is in relation to others' ideas.

September 19: The role of universities in language revitalization

This week, we'll discuss the past, current, and future role(s) that Universities play in language revitalization. To ground our discussion, we invite you to read  this article by Little et al. about a community-university partnership in Canada, alongside the McGill Vision Statement "Bridging communities and universities through language engagement." Closer to home here at UC Berkeley, we also encourage you to consider the chapter by Baldwin, Hinton, and Perez-Baez on Breath of Life from the Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization alongside the report on Native American collections in archives on the UC Berkeley campus. Some questions we'll likely discuss include: (1) what barriers to collaboration exist and how can we in our (multiple) roles work to address them? (2) how do the goals of different individuals, groups, and institutions work together or challenge one another? (3) what alternatives to the current model could we propose?

October 3: Decolonizing methodologies

Join us for a discussion of decolonizing methodologies, facilitated by Lissett Bastidas. It is recommended to read the works listed below, and to conder the following questions: 

1. Why is an Indigenous creation story that may or may not have a chronology usually considered in academia a myth and not part of history nor religious studies?

2. Can that change? How?

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2012.  Decolonizing Methodologies. Pp. 26-41

Kovach, Margaret. 2010. Ch 4 "Applying a Decolonizing Lens within Indigenous Research Frameworks." In Indigenous Methodologies. Pp. 75-93

Optional: Teaiwa, Teresia. 2014. "The Ancestors We Get to Choose: White Influences I Won't Deny." In Theorizing Native Studies edited by Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith. Pp. 43-53.

October 17: Ways to assess

Join us for a presention and discussion of assessment strategies for indigenous languages, led by David Sul. He writes:

I will be focusing my presentation entitled “Indigenous Language Assessment Development” toward those of you who are looking for practical assessment development advice. I will include some important definitions as well as a nuts and bolts description of the instrument development process undertaken to construct the Dibishgaademgak Anishinaabemowin (Measuring Anishinaabemowin) assessment that is the focus of my dissertation. At the conclusion of the presentation, I hope to draw contrasts between the approaches taken within the seven articles and the one undertaken by our assessment development team.

October 31: Technology and language revitalization

Join us for a presentation and discussion of the relatinship between technology and language revitalization led by Edwin Ko. Edwin has shared an annotated bibliography of twelve selected articles involving digital technology within language revitalization which can be downloaded so that you may read articles you find relevant. Last month, Edwin was invited to participate at a two-day meeting at Carleton University where the topic was "Digital Tools for Endangered Languages: Listening, Learning and Looking Ahead." He will share some of the highly stimulating discussions from the meeting. Open discussions are highly encouraged.

November 14: Visit by Margaret Noodin at 4:00pm; discussion of Noodin's articles from 1-2

In anticipation of Margaret Noodin's talk at 4pm today, we'll be reading and discussing two of her papers: Waasechibiiwaabikoonsing Nd'anami'aami, "Praying through a Wired Window": Using Technology to Teach Anishinaabemowin (2011; in Studies in American Indian Literatures 23(2):3-24; and chapter 8 from Bringing Our Languages Home (2001) "Anishinaabemowin: Language, Family, and Community". Come ready to discuss, ask questions, and get excited about Noodin's talk!

December 5: Project update