The Department has a strong commitment to the study of Languages of the Americas, with particular focus on First Nations Languages of Canada.
We are particularly known in the areas of documentation and theoretical research. Our faculty are currently working on projects in languages from numerous language families including Algonquian, Austronesian, Iroquoian, Na-Dene, Otomanguean, Salish, Tsimishianic, Uto-Aztecan, Wakashan, and Yokuts.
Our research on indigenous language spans a wide range of theoretical interests and specialization, from phonetics and phonology to syntax and semantics. These interests are also reflected in the work of our graduate students: approximately half of our PhD dissertations and MA theses completed in our Department have focused on indigenous languages of the Americas. Much of this work has sprung from our year-long course sequence in Linguistic Fieldwork, which features a Canadian indigenous language approximately four out of every five years.
Given the highly endangered status of most of the languages we investigate, we are also very conscious of our responsibility to the language communities we work with. Many of us have close links to First Nations communities, and have assisted in language education programs as language teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, and advocates.
Finally, through the UBC Working Papers in Linguistics, we help to promote the study of indigenous languages as publishers of the Papers for the International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages (ICSNL) and The Proceedings of the Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas (WSCLA). UBCWPL also hosts the Kinkade Collection, an online archive of the ICSNL, as a resource for scholars and others interested in Pacific NW languages.
The UBC Department of Linguistics supports the funding initiative announced in the 2018 BC provincial budget, aimed at stabilizing and revitalizing the Indigenous languages of British Columbia.
Introduction to the Kinkade Collection: the On-Line Archive of ICS(N)L Papers
The first International Conference on Salish languages took place, as recounted by the late M. Dale Kinkade, round a table in the Seattle home of Laurence C. and M. Terry Thompson in 1965. No paper record remains (at least as far as we are able to ascertain) of the first two conferences, but beginning in 1967, papers for the conference were pre-circulated in booklet form to conference participants, and the conference began to take the form it has assumed (more or less) ever since. The ICSL rapidly became the major clearing house for linguistic materials on Salish languages, and soon attracted scholars working on neighbouring Wakashan, Chimakuan, Tsimshianic, Athapaskan, Chinookan, Penutian and Sahaptian languages, as well as on Haida, Kootenai, and Chinook Jargon. To reflect this broader areal focus, the name of the conference was changed in 1982 to the International Conference on Salish and Neighbo(u)ring Languages (ICSNL), the title by which it is known today.
During the period from 1967-1999, the Papers for the ICS(N)L were collected, collated and distributed prior to the conference by the local organizing committee, which changed from year to year with the conference location: the Papers had no publisher, editor, or common format. This was partly a deliberate decision by conference participants, who viewed the papers as works-in-progress whose primary function was to stimulate discussion at the conference itself. However, it eventually became apparent that many of the papers contained extremely valuable language documentation, particularly given that several of the languages under discussion are no longer spoken today. In addition, the Papers as a whole provide a unique perspective on the trajectory of linguistic investigation in the Northwest over the last half century, and as such form an important part of linguistic history in North America.
In 2000, UBC Working Papers in Linguistics took over publication of the Papers, providing them with a permanent home as well as some consistency in formatting and presentation. However, the problem remained as to how to ensure that the earlier Papers were preserved and made available to language communities and linguists. The death of M. Dale Kinkade in 2004, the only one of the original founders to have attended every single conference up till then, made us more acutely aware that we were in danger of losing the collected wisdom of the earlier papers. Fortunately, as part of his legacy, Professor Kinkade bequeathed his personal collection of Papers to the UBC Linguistics Department, giving us an almost complete and well-preserved set of originals. The decision was then made to scan all the papers into electronic format and mount them on the UBC Linguistics Department website, as a service to the field and as a tribute to the collective efforts of a generation of dedicated field linguists and language consultants. The result is The Kinkade Collection; the On-Line Archive of Papers for the International Conference on Salish (and Neighbo(u)ring) Languages.
The archive contains all the published papers from the ICS(N)L conferences. These are working papers: copyright remains with the authors, and we gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in allowing us to disseminate their papers electronically. It is also important to bear in mind that in many cases, papers published in the Papers were subsequently revised (often on the basis of comments made at the conference) and found their way into peer-reviewed journals or books. We therefore recommend that before citing one of the Papers, readers ascertain whether a later published version exists. For Salish languages, the best place to look is in Jan van Eijk’s comprehensive bibliography of Salish linguistics, published on-line in the Northwest Journal of Linguistics (Volume 2, Issue 3 (2008): 1-128). For Wakashan languages, the Wakashan Linguistics Page (http://depts.washington.edu/wll2/bibliography.html) has the most up-to-date bibliography, with links to other Wakashan resources. There are no comparably complete bibliographies for other northwest language families: we suggest contacting the authors directly, if possible.
Finally, we would like to thank the following people, who made the on-line collection possible: Tyler Peterson, who initiated the project and scanned most of the early volumes; Clarissa Forbes and John Lyon, who saw the project to completion; Masaru Kiyota, who handled the technical side; Tony Mattina, who gave us permission to scan papers from ICSL XVI, which was originally published under his editorship by the University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics; and Donna Gerdts, who (to our knowledge) has the only other complete set of Papers, and who generously lent us her copies to fill in the gaps in Kinkade’s collection. This collection is dedicated to those who sat around Larry and Terry Thompson’s dining room table in 1965 at the first ICSL, and particularly to the memory of Dale Kinkade.