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Suzanne M. Wash
Unaffiliated Independent Scholar
A Corpus of Oral Literature and History Told in Northern Sierra Miwok, a California Indian Language

In this project I work on the transcription, interlinear analysis and line-by-line translation of a corpus of 533 oral narratives told in Northern Sierra Miwok, a moribund California Indian language. It is extremely unlikely that a corpus like this one will ever be recorded again. I recorded these narratives on audio and video during the past decade from Manuel Jeff, a Miwok elder who died in 1998 at the age of 92. This corpus contains traditional Miwok oral literature, historical accounts handed down to Mr. Jeff by his elders, recollections of Mr. Jeff's own life experiences spanning the 20th century, and discussions of traditional beliefs and practices. Each narrative has an overall free translation in English from Mr. Jeff. I check over the final draft of each narrative with David Jeff, 70, who is Manuel Jeff's son and a speaker of Northern Sierra Miwok. When the transcription and translation of this corpus is completed, the ultimate outcome will be several published volumes of narratives in a bilingual, Northern Sierra Miwok-English format, accompanied by audio CDs. These materials will be critical to future efforts by the Miwok community to revitalize the Northern Sierra Miwok language. They will also serve as an invaluable corpus of primary data for linguists, historians, and scholars of oral literature and folklore. Finally, they will be useful to public school teachers who are looking for multimedia materials to incorporate into their lesson plans on Native American literature, languages and cultures.

Project fields:

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 12/31/2004