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BLUE RIBBON AWARD WINNER
California State University, San Marcos faculty have collaborated in a language documentation project for the Ixil (pronounced [eesheel]) Maya language. Since 2005, six US- and Guatemala-based linguists and anthropologists have partnered with a group 54 Ixil speakers living in Guatemala to create a tri-lingual reference grammar of Ixil.
The Ixil speakers are diverse in occupation, education, and ages, but the younger members tend to be more educated and bilingual in Ixil and Spanish. Faculty have trained volunteers to work with small groups on linguistic analysis, where participants develop technical terms in Ixil used to analyze and explain grammatical constructions. They also transcribe and translate most recorded meetings and narratives into Spanish, add them to the database, and conduct the linguistic analysis. In bi-annual visits, faculty observe and support their progress.
As participants take ownership of the project, they practice reading and writing in their language and share this knowledge with their children. Production of the grammar will benefit the larger Ixil community. Language students in the US benefit indirectly as academic classwork is derived from the project. The project may also serve as a model for building community participation and leadership in other language revitalization programs.
The trilingual grammar of Ixil goes beyond research grammars of indigenous languages that appear only in European languages. In addition, the two versions have different purposes. While the English/Spanish version will be used in an academic setting, the Ixil version will be a tool for the community. Since formal education in Guatemala is conducted almost entirely in Spanish, the participants intend to disseminate the grammar widely in their community, as it will fill an important education and cultural gap.
Michael Hughes, Modern Language Studies
California State University, San Marcos
Jule Gómez de Garcîa, California State University, San Marcos
Key words: Cultural preservation, language, Central America, international