Meskwaki Project

In the summer of 2016, the linguistics program at Luther received an Andrew W. Mellon foundation grant to conduct a five-week collaborative research project in language revitalization, working with the Meskwaki Tribe in Tama, Iowa. The purpose of this work was to help the community in their language revitalization efforts. The focus of this research was both language documentation and the development of materials for language teaching.

At the end of the project, the linguistics program had gathered a wide variety of sentences that exemplified the use of verbs in Meskwaki. In particular, this data shows how verbs inflect for number, gender, etc. This information is important because much of what is known about Meskwaki grammar is based on texts that were written approximately 100 years ago, and because language changes constantly, we need to understand how that might differ from the grammar of the language as it is spoken today.

One of the aims of this work, is the creation of a grammar book, with the working title “English grammar for students of Meskwaki.” This document would allow Meskwaki speakers and learners to familiarize themselves with the grammar of English, in particular those areas that would positively impact their Meskwaki learning experience. While this collaborative summer research project is officially over, the linguistics program at Luther will continue to work on the project and stay in touch with the Meskwaki Nation in Tama to further assist one another. The experience and material obtained from this project has served as the foundation for a Linguistics Minor Capstone Paper entitled Meskwaki Transitive Inanimate Present Indicative Inflection: A Teaching Methodology. Moreover, this experience facilitated the creation of a new linguistics course by the name of Linguistic Pursuits: Language and Sustainability, in which the students will further engage with the Meskwaki community to assist in their language revitalization efforts.

The resulting research from this project will be presented at the following venues:

  • Luther College Faculty Research Symposium, October
  • National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), April 2017
  • Luther College Research Symposium, May 2017