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15 June 2010 @ 09:37 am
Saving dying languages: Plains Indian sign language  
Scholar of the Week [Remainder of post is direct quote from the website.]
Jeffrey Davis, an associate professor [at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville] in sign language linguistics, has won National Science Foundation support to organize the first Plains Indian sign language workshop to be held in 80 years.

Davis rediscovered 1930s films of Native American signers that had been stored in government archives and is now leading a National Science Foundation project to locate and interview the few remaining users of Plains Indian hand sign.

Davis and co-investigator Melanie McKay-Cody from William Woods University, will hold the workshop August 12-15, 2010, at a site still to be determined on the Northern Plains. The NSF Documenting Endangered Languages program is funding the effort.

Davis’s efforts to preserve and document Plains Indian sign language are spotlighted on Science Nation, an online science magazine for the public supported by the National Science Foundation. View the NSF Science Nation video or visit the Hand Talk: American Indian Sign Language website.

For additional information, visit Jeffrey Davis’ website.

Recent Publications

Davis, J. (2010). Hand talk: Sign Language among Indian Nations of North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McKee, R., & Davis, J. (Eds.) (2010). Sign Language Interpreting in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts: Studies in Interpretation. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Davis, J., & McKay-Cody, M. (2010). Signed languages and American Indian communities: Considerations for interpreting work and research. In R. McKee, & J. Davis (Eds.), Sign Language Interpreting in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Davis, J. (2007). North American Indian signed language varieties: A comparative linguistic assessment. Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities, 13, 85 – 122.

Davis, J. (2006). A historical linguistic account of Sign Language among North American Indians. In C. Lucas (Ed.), Multilingualism and Sign Languages: From the Great Plains to Australia (pp. 3 – 35). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Davis, J. (2005). Code choices and consequences: Implications for educational interpreting. In M. Marschark, R. Peterson, & E. Winston (Eds.), Educational Interpreting: From Research to Practice (pp. 112 – 141). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Visit the Quest Gallery at Trace, UT’s digital archive, to access publications of other Quest Scholars of the Week.
Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Catpernishus on June 15th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this post, Janet -- it's a very interesting and worthwhile project.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 15th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
I thought it was amazingly cool -- and Dr. Davis is a wonderful, delightful, charming person; I've met him several times when he's worked with the ITC on projects, and when he's been ASL interpreting for small events.
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Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 15th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
I hope it garners sufficient attention to preserve the language.
Jilara: Cool!jilara on June 15th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
Yay! I've always been a big fan of what I term "Trade Sign," which was essentially the common language that allowed all the Native Peoples to communicate across the language barriers. The Plains variant is essentially a subset of what was once a near-universal trade language, used from the East Coast to at least the Rockies.

Connection trivia: a friend of mine's father was responsible for popularizing Indian Sign Language among the Boy Scouts, back in the 1930's.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 15th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
What a neat connection!
The Broad Majestic Shannonms_interpret on June 15th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
Fabulous! I love this kind of work. My dream job (that I had, but was spoilt by the nightmare boss) was documenting an endangered Mayan language.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 15th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking I remember you talking about that job.
amaebiamaebi on June 15th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
That reeks of Awesome.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on June 16th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
It really does.