Tribal Linguistic History using Digital Tools

Chuksani-speaking Native Americans preserve language using military-tech translators. This is what happens when speakers of a nearly extinct language get their hands on the latest DoD-inspired smart electronic gadgets. [via Dangerousmeta]

Jane Wyatt, 62, of Coarsegold, and her sister, Holly, 65, were among six tribal members who gathered Friday across the street from the Picayune Rancheria’s busy Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold to try out a newly acquired “Phraselator.”

The electronic translator was developed just a few years ago from technology used for military translators, said Don Thornton of Thornton Media Inc., based in Banning. Thornton Media is working with 70 tribes in the United States and Canada to preserve native languages, he said.

“What’s my name?” he asked the box in his hand. He pressed another button and it replied in what Thornton said was Chukchansi.

The Wyatt sisters learned the unwritten Chukchansi language at home while they were growing up in the Madera County foothills. Chukchansi is one of many native California dialects considered to be nearly extinct.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 24, 2007 in • Digitality
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