The Kanza Language: Then and Now

Sunday, May 3, 2 pm

Justin McBridePresented by: Justin McBride, Director, Kaw Language Program, Kaw Nation.


Justin McBride, an active Cherokee citizen, was exposed early in his life to many rich, cultural experiences that have contributed to his present work.  Growing up with his Cherokee-speaking grandfather and hearing Osage spoken at local ceremonial dances helped Justin later with studies in German, Russian Greek, Hebrew, and especially Cherokee at OU, where he majored in linguistics, minored in Native American studies, and earned a master’s degree in second language teaching while consulting on Quapaw, Omaha, and Osage languages.  In 2001 the Kaw Nation hired him to spearhead the Kanza Language Project. In 2010 McBride left the Kaw Nation to earn his PhD in Linguistics from OU. He returned to resume his work as Kaw Nation Language Director in January of 2015, where he hopes to complete the full documentation of Kanza through the compilation of a text corpus and the draft of a reference grammar of the language


In this talk, McBride will explore the trajectory of the Kanza language from the 1880s to the 1980s and far beyond.  Only two hundred years ago, thousands of Kaw people spoke the Kanza language prolifically, however, by the 1980s, those thousands had dwindled to less than a handful of speakers.  McBride will address several matters of basic concern: What is the language like? What happened to it? Is it worth preserving? What future does it have, if at all? He will also talk about some of the nuts and bolts of documenting and revitalizing endangered languages, from Native American languages like Kanza to those much further afield. McBride will cover everything from research methods to the creation of learner resources and opportunities for speaking.