The Sounds of Tanacross

About the Project

The idea for this project grew out of our experience learning Tanacross language in both informal and classroom settings. While it was possible to record speakers and listen to recordings outside of class time, we found the recordings to be a poor subsitute for actually watching the speaker's pronunciation in class. Difficult sequences such as or were clearly recognizable in class but difficult to hear on an audio recording. We found video recordings to be a much better alternative. We thus set out to obtain high quality video recordings of careful pronunciations of all of the Tanacross Sounds.

Rick Thoman developed a grant proposal to the Endangered Language Fund as part of a Spring 2003 class at the University of Alaska Fairbanks entitled Community Language Documentation. With this funding he was able to compensate speakers for their time working on the project. The video recording was done by Eric Chaikin, as part of the Tanacross Film Project. Chaikin was supported in part by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program. Without Eric's dedication and expertise this project would not have been possible.

This CD includes approximately 60 separate audio clips and 275 different video files. Audio recordings were recorded directly to computer, then compressed to mp3 format for this CD. Video recordings were made using a Sony HD-700 high definition digital video camera. These recordings were transferred to computer and saved as Quicktime format using Sorenson compression. While the audio recordings were collected over a period of several years, all of the video recordings were made during September 2003.

Funding for this project was provided by the Endangered Language Fund, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation through grant NSF-OPP\xc2 0136113. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the compilers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

About the Authors

Three speakers contributed audio and video recordings for this CD: Mrs. Irene Arnold, Mrs. Laura Sanford and Mr. Kenny Thomas, Sr.

Mrs. Arnold has devoted much of the past two decades to the teaching and documentation of her ancestral language, producing a number of publications, including Tanacross Language Lessons (1994) and Tanacross Phrase and Conversation Lessons (2003). She is currently Tanacross Language Specialist at the Alaska Native Language Center.

Mrs. Sanford was an active contributor to both language revitalization and language documentation programs, participating in the Tanana Chiefs Conference Mentor-Apprentice program and the Tanacross Dictionary Project. She passed away in 2010.

Mr. Thomas has participated in a number of language and culture revitalization projects and recently completed (with Craig Mishler) an oral history entitled Crow is My Boss (2005).

Mr. Eric Chaikin is an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Montana. His M.F.A. project, K'a nech'oxdekdiigh -- I'm not going to teach you, is an experiential film which tells the story of the Tanacross language and its role in the community.

Mr. Rick Thoman received his M.A. in Linguistics and Alaska Native Languages from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2004 for his work on the Tanacross Learner's Dictionary. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dr. Gary Holton is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he pursues work related to the documentation and revitalization of Alaska Athabascan languages.