Wonderful news from recent postdoc/faculty member Nick Welch (Memorial University of Newfoundland), who has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Change, Adaptation and Revitalization of Aboriginal Languages.
Dr. Welch’s research focuses on the syntactic structure of the Indigenous languages of North America, particularly those of the Dene family of languages, as well as the implications for teaching and learning these languages. He also pursues the creation of IT tools for the teaching of endangered languages.
“Almost all Indigenous languages in North America are endangered,” said Dr. Welch, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto before joining Memorial. “More and more kids are growing up monolingual in English. Language is a vital medium for the transmission of culture and when a language disappears, a millennia-old wealth of cultural knowledge goes with it.”
Dr. Welch says his CRC appointment provides him with a unique opportunity to make a large-scale contribution to language preservation efforts. He says he hopes to build a program for training students and community members in skills for language documentation and revitalization, similar to those at universities in Western Canada that are not yet available in the eastern part of the country.
He also says he wants to build large online databases of Innu-aimun and Inuktitut, the Indigenous languages of Labrador, and to create a program to train community linguists and language teachers.
“I intend to recruit interested Indigenous students for undergraduate and graduate work in linguistics,” he said. “My hope is that when I retire, my successor will be a native speaker of Inuttitut or Innu-aimun.”
Congratulations and all the best, Nick! We can attest to this tremendous honour being more than well-earned.