Travel report - Claire Turner
Research trip to Victoria/Saanich, British Columbia
Claire K. Turner, University of Surrey, June 2009
I am currently working on a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Surrey, looking at tense and other parts of grammar which encode time. The language I am focussing on is SENĆOŦEN, an indigenous (First Nations) language of the Salish language family spoken on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island, just north of Victoria. SENĆOŦEN is highly endangered and there is still much that has not been documented. As such, my study of the language relies heavily on firsthand fieldwork with native speakers, who are all based in the Saanich area.
Through the assistance of a BACS travel grant, I was able to travel to Victoria this April and May. While there, I worked 10 hours a week with two elders in the Saanich community, recording hundreds of sentences and conversations in SENĆOŦEN. This work was funded by two research grants from North American bodies: the Jacobs Fund and the Phillips Fund. The language recorded in these sessions has already begun to enrich my understanding of SENĆOŦEN in general, and my thesis topic in particular, and will also contribute to the growing corpus of recorded SENĆOŦEN material which can inform future research and/or language learning.
Another really important benefit of spending time in the area was that I was able to pick up contact with other people in the Saanich community involved in language work, to ensure that the recordings I have made previously were shared with community members, and to make plans to upload the materials I have recorded onto FirstVoices, a web-based learning tool for First Nations languages.
Finally, the trip also gave me an opportunity to meet with some of the other linguists working on Salish languages at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. This allowed for the continuation and beginning of a few research and study collaborations.
In short, the trip was highly successful, from an academic point of view and from the point of view of setting up and strengthening working relationships with community members and researchers in southwestern British Columbia. I am very grateful to the BACS, along with the other funding bodies involved, for making this trip possible.