Announcing the 2022-23 Humanities Faculty Fellow

sonya bird (credit photo services)
Agnes Violet Sharon Seymour practices her pronunciation using ultrasound technology with her son, Luke, and UVic linguist Sonya Bird. Photo: UVic Photo Services

We are proud to announce that associate professor Sonya Bird (Linguistics) has been named Faculty Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year.

Bird will use the fellowship to work on her SSHRC Partnership Development project Hul’q’umi’num’ phonetic structures: Exploring paths towards fluent pronunciation.

The Indigenous language revitalization movement is growing in Canada in response, in part, to the awareness that well-being depends upon a solid foundation of linguistic and cultural identity. In British Columbia, very few first-language speaking Elders remain, and so this movement is being carried by adult second language learners. These language champions have taken on the task of transmitting their language to the next generation, as parents, teachers, and researchers. The goal of Hul’q’umi’num’ Phonetic Structures, which is being conducted in partnership with researchers at UVic, SFU, U of T, and the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language & Culture Society, has been to support the development of oral fluency among adult Hul’q’umi’num’ learners, using linguistic analysis as a tool for both research and education.

The Faculty Fellowship will enable Sonya and her partners to complete two key activities and embark on a third: (1) use perception to train production, via a series of listening quizzes, which will inform the way listening skills are incorporated into language teaching; (2) document the processes used in this project to create teaching and research tools, and to nurture both existing and new relationships, which can be shared with neighbouring communities; and (3) begin to explore developmental pathways of pronunciation acquisition among children, as they learn Hul’q’umi’num’.

This vital work is sure to have profound resonances and reverberations in the academy and in the community. As Sonya notes in her application, “adult Indigenous language learners are very conscious of the fact that they are responsible for their language’s survival, and that if they do not ‘get it right’, the language will be forever changed.” Hul’q’umi’num’ phonetic structures: Exploring paths towards fluent pronunciation takes critical steps forward to “get it right” for Salish languages. You can read more about this visionary project here:

Author: Alex D’Arcy, Humanities Associate Dean Research