Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Anishinaabemowin Animacy: The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Anishinaabemowin Animacy:  The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Elspeth Geiger

Language revitalization programs seek to increase the number of fluent speakers of indigenous languages.  Languages that were once widely spoken are now in danger of disappearing.  However, within the last twenty years, organizations have worked to re-build and strengthen the number of native speakers. Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) is an example of an Algonquian language that has become the focus of language revitalization efforts. While a number of language revitalization programs for Anishinaabemowin target children or offer language immersion programs, many speakers of Anishinaabemowin are learning it as a second language.  Should adults not have access to classes, internet resources could be one of the only options for learning the language.  However, the difference between animate and inanimate nouns is difficult for students to learn without access to a native speaker.  Unfortunately, animacy is rarely taught through online sources.  Websites claim that it is important to work with elders for assistance with the use of animate or inanimate nouns.  Sources also highlight the spiritual and cultural importance of the language.  However, in the online sources that do discuss animacy, the ways that animacy is presented for each site differ greatly in message and theme.  This paper seeks to understand what types of metalanguage exist within the ways animacy is taught through online Anishinaabemowin language revitalization websites. 

April 15, 2013 - Posted by | abstract


  1. This is fascinating. Has animacy been observed cross-culturally? I also wonder how ideas of animacy may have changed over time and how that might be reflected in the language.

    Comment by Brenna | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  2. I find the process of language revitalization really fascinating, and I would be really interested in reading your paper.

    Comment by C.A. Donnelly | April 16, 2013 | Reply

  3. Your paper sounds great Elspeth, and I would love to read it! Back in the day, we touched very briefly on animacy in Spanish (during high school), but obviously this is a complex subject and something we did not have much time to delve into besides the basics. I think reading your paper would be very interesting and would help increase my knowledge of animacy, as well as language revitalization.

    Comment by Kelsey | April 19, 2013 | Reply

  4. Ah, techlology, where our reach always exceeds our grasp. Nevertheless, one might hope that the answer to imprefect communication is more communication– between teachers and learners, but also between teacher and teacher. Virtual communities Skyping (or whatever takes its place) together to achieve an emergent consensus on content and technique?

    Comment by Dan | April 19, 2013 | Reply

  5. I would also like to read this, is it available?

    Comment by Michael Thomas | April 23, 2013 | Reply

  6. I am eager to see where your research leads you!

    Comment by Sofía Syntaxx | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  7. Additionally, you might find this reading interesting:

    Comment by Sofía Syntaxx | April 30, 2013 | Reply

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