I (Shannon) just returned from my second village trip to work with the same community on nouns. Just as French, Italian and Spanish have some similarities as they are related languages, this language also has similarities with related languages. This is extremely helpful in having an idea of how the grammar of the language might work. However, even closely related languages are not the same and sometimes there are interesting surprises and variations in the way each language is structured and used.
During this workshop, the community make big steps forward in understanding and using their new orthography (alphabet). They are helping and correcting each other in their writing and seem to fully understand why and how to use the various letters, which are very different from the French system that they have been used to. They also made a preliminary decision on the marking of tones. This language uses tones to distinguish meaning and also for various grammatical functions (ex. a mark of association, like a tree in the forest is denoted only by a high tone), so it is an important part of the language and of the writing system. Our data at this point shows a fairly even distribution of the high vs low tone across all parts of the language and the community seemed to favor marking the low tone. Up to this point, we’ve been marking all tones and this step of marking only one tone will help to simplify the writing and reading for the future.
In addition, the noun phrase system was explored and much data gathered for further analysis. At the end of the week, the participants made charts summarizing all of the information that was gathered about their noun system and the way in which nouns work in their language. It was good review for everyone and they corrected a few errors which shows that they are really understanding it now.
After finalizing the alphabet chart, groups worked on making sentences for each letter which can be made into a primer for literacy classes in the future. We were also able to collect a few fairytales and many proverbs from the older men in the community. They were eager to share and this information is extremely helpful in making sure that future translation works are clear, natural, and accurate.