A University of Saskatchewan researcher plans to work with the Clearwater River Dene Nation and La Loche as part of a study of the Denesuline language.
Olga Lovick is a linguistics professor at the U of S.
She will be working with the two communities with the goal of keeping the language vibrant and challenging certain existing notions within linguistics.
Lovick said younger Dene speakers use the language differently or have a different structure of the language than elders.
This seems to draw into question the preconceived idea that people master the structure of their first language as a child.
She said the reason the Clearwater Nation and La Loche were asked to participate in the study is they are two of the few remaining places in Canada that still use Dene as a primary language.
Lovick said researchers, who consist mainly of community members, will do a series of recordings with Dene speakers both young and old.
The plan is to give approximately one hundred hours of recordings back to community schools provided the necessary permissions are obtained.
“And so that will be one of the first outcomes; that we’ll have lots of material that then the community can use to strengthen the language,” Lovick said. “They can develop books, for example, to use in the schools, or to have, for example, if we’re recording somebody telling a story then the recording could be used in the schools as well so that children can listen to it.”
Lovick added the researchers hope the study will help ensure the Dene language remains strong in both communities as many other Indigenous communities are dealing with the loss of the traditional language.
“Just because the Indigenous languages in Canada, many of them are struggling and so it is so exciting to work in a community where that isn’t the case and it’s really important to make sure it stays that way.”
The study recently received part of a federal grant that will provide funding for two to five years.
(PHOTO: University of Saskatchewan researcher Olga Lovick. Photo courtesy Olga Lovick.)