UNM hosts inaugural symposium on Indigenous child language learning: UNM Newsroom

The first ever Child Language Acquisition Symposium for Indigenous Communities (CLASIC) takes place on May 17 and 18 at UNM.

CLASIC will be held at the Hibben Center by UNM’s Indigenous Child Language Research Center (ICLRC), as part of the Department of Linguistics. ICLRC was established two years ago to research how young children acquire the Indigenous languages of New Mexico and beyond.

“To our knowledge, there are no gatherings that focus on the youngest learners. We believe this will be a unique and important gathering for everyone involved,” Director of the Navajo Language Program Melvatha Chee said. “We want to provide a safe space for these groups to share their experiences and engage with one another to provide solutions for the continuity of Native American languages. This conference provides an environment where work with the youngest child speakers can be shared. “

To create space for this and to further invigorate the burgeoning transmission of and research on Indigenous languages in the United States and Canada, ICLRC will bring language nest representatives, parents of children in nests and researchers on these programs and languages to Albuquerque for CLASIC.

“At this inaugural CLASIC, we want to focus on languages that are spoken in our area, among native communities within Canada and the US borders, as well as showcase the work language nests and parents are doing,” Chee said.

Attendees are expected from across the United States, Canada and Europe and represent speakers of and researchers on languages such as Cherokee, Hupa, Chickasaw, Dëne Sųłinë́, Inuktitut, Mohawk and more.

CLASIC will immerse attendees in the Indigenous cultures of New Mexico and will feature cultural presenters and meals catered by Indigenous woman-owned catering businesses. There will be two keynote speakers and over a dozen presentations on Indigenous child language acquisition, language nests, and parent roles.

The invited keynote speaker, Shanley Allen, is a renowned, published researcher in this area of study and has been studying Inuktitut since around 1994. In addition to Chee herself also speaking,  Dagmar Jung, a UNM alumnus and one of the first graduates of the Department of Linguistics with a Ph.D., will present on Dëne Sųłine child language.

“There are very few individuals who research Indigenous child language, and the four individuals who do this work will be attending CLASIC,” Chee said.

ICLRC researchers have spent the past two years studying the acquisition of the Navajo language, or Diné Bizaad, by children at a language nest in Albuquerque, and have realized a need for a conference like this to unite language nest learning.

“Most conferences tend to focus on the world’s most widely spoken languages, the most fluent Native speakers of minority languages, on classroom language learning, and older children,” Chee said. “This is a subject which has been severely lacking, especially considering that the Indigenous languages of North America are fundamentally different from the most spoken languages around the world.”

You may find more information and register for CLASIC at the Child Language Acquisition Symposium for Indigenous Communities.

Do you have a suggestion for a story that illustrates excellence at UNM?

© The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131, (505) 277-0111
New Mexico’s Flagship University