Archival Language Materials
There are no remaining fluent speakers of Soulatluk (no one alive today grew up speaking Soulatluk as their first language). However, there is a great deal of documentation of Soulatluk that was compiled when the language was still spoken natively. These materials include written word lists, texts, and grammatical descriptions dating from the late 1800s to the 1960s, as well as audio recordings of songs, words and phrases, and narrative texts from the 1950s to 1960s.
Below is a sample of what some of the written materials look like in their original form. Digitized versions (typed and annotated, with spelling converted to the Tribal Council-approved spelling system) of some documents are available for download, and more will follow as materials continue to be digitized.
- Weaver Denman audio (1 word list, 83 words)
- Della Prince audio (multiple word & phrase lists and narratives, about 14 hours total; 2 lists are currently posted online)
- Nettie Rossig audio (1 word list, 161 words) @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>
There are many published and unpublished Soulatluk word and phrase lists and grammatical descriptions made by linguists and other researchers who interviewed about 20 Soulatluk speakers. Below are just a few examples:
J. Curtin (1889)speaker(s) unknown
G. Reichard (1925)speakers Elsie Barto, Jerry James, Warren Brainard, Jane Searson, Della Prince, Miranda Berry, Amos Riley, Winnie Buckley, Birdie James, and others
G. Reichard (1922)speakers Elsie Barto, Jerry James, Warren Brainard, Jane Searson, Della Prince, Miranda Berry, Amos Riley, Winnie Buckley, Birdie James, and others
Teeter & Nichols (1993)speaker Della Prince
Complete Picture of the Language
Because these records were created by many different researchers, each of whom had a different system for writing the sounds of Soulatluk, and because they contain information given by speakers from different dialects and time periods, it is a challenge to form a complete picture of the language.
To better understand this, imagine that the last English speaker had died several decades ago. Then imagine that the only information we had today about the English language was a dozen or so texts and word lists collected by, say, Swahili-speaking researchers who did not know anything about English spelling (and some of the researchers were very good at language analysis, while others were not). THEN imagine that the English speakers who provided the researchers with their information lived between about 1885 and 1960, and some of them were from Minnesota while others were from South Carolina or New York!
Soulatluk hou gou gou'wurruwisuqu'l (Revitalization)
"Language revitalization" refers to efforts to bring endangered languages (languages with very few native speakers) back into broader use in a community by teaching the language to non-fluent or semi-fluent speakers. But can a language with no fully fluent speakers be brought back into use? It may be more difficult, but the Wiyot people are not the first community to try it: revitalization of so-called "extinct" or "dormant" languages (aka "language revival", "language reclamation," etc.) is underway for the Miami (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oklahoma); Mutsun (California); and Wampanoag (Massachusetts) languages. Elsewhere in the world, Modern Hebrew was revived from religious and traditional texts after centuries during which it was used only ceremonially.