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Lenore Grenoble Works to Rescue Arctic Languages from Extinction

University of Chicago Alumni Magazine recently profiled Lenore Grenoble, Carl Darling Buck Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, Department of Linguistics, and the College, and her travels to a remote corner of Siberia to document the endangered Evenki language.  According to the United Nations more than half of the world’s 6,000 to 7,000 languages will disappear by the end of the 21st century, and Grenoble has traveled to this remote area since the breakup of the Soviet Union to document and help preserve the Evenki language and way of life for these nomadic hunters.  Grenoble’s work with the Evenki formed the cornerstone of her 2006 book Saving Languages, a guide for activists and scholars hoping to rescue indigenous languages from extinction.

From the article:

The Evenki people, [Grenoble] says, are fiercely proud of their language and traditions. When guests arrive, they are treated to a “delicacy of raw reindeer liver, sliced, and with any luck somewhat frozen,” she recalls. “You dip it in salt and pepper, swallow quickly, and chase it with vodka.”

Grenoble’s mix of activism and scholarship is part of a global trend. “In linguistics,” she says, “ethical research collaborates with indigenous communities.” This approach sometimes diverts scholars’ attention from their research, but for Grenoble it’s a matter of friendship. “You live with the people, and they become your friends,” she says. “I think once you start working with endangered communities, it’s hard not to be an activist.”

To read more about Grenoble’s work and research please click here.

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