Native American Philology Model

Native American philology is the systematic examination and study of language and cultural information from written and other recorded materials for the advancement of community goals. The field of Native American philology, as it pertains to archive-based language revitalization, is an emerging yet rapidly expanding field. Since the early 1990s, the field has grown exponentially on account of the increased role of archives within language revitalization efforts across tribal communities. National Breath of Life alone has provided training to 124 Community Researchers from 55 Native American language communities since 2011. More broadly, Native American philology for language revitalization constitutes a growing movement led by Community Researchers seeking to impact their communities through humanities-centered language work. This in turn highlights the increased importance of archives and of the ability of Native American communities to process, curate and care for these collections so that they may be broadly accessible to their members in the most culturally appropriate and beneficial way.

For archival language materials to be of educational value to the revitalization of an endangered, awakening or dormant language, they need to be located, evaluated, organized, and analyzed. Much of this archival work must be carried out before the language data can be made accessible to language communities in meaningful ways that contribute to the revitalization of languages and cultural practices. National Breath of Life has developed training modules designed for community researchers, archivists, linguists, and language teachers to develop the necessary skills to carry out the long-term process of archive-based research for revitalization. These modules are built into the National Breath of Life Model for Native American Philology shown in the diagram below.

Native American Philology Diagram

The National Breath of Life Philology model conceptualizes the process of locating, preparing and integrating archival language materials into language revitalization contexts through the metaphor of weaving. Much like basketry materials, archival language resources are first collected, then processed before being woven into a community fabric or basket of language use and learning.

Each of the modules is designed to provide community members and stakeholders with training that bridges the fields of archival development, linguistics, and second language acquisition for the specific purpose of language revitalization. The goal of these modules is to create a sustainable pathway that allows archival content to efficiently and productively reach language learners within tribal communities.