Graduate Study in Native American Linguistics

Have you wondered about...

  • the future of the indigenous languages of the Americas?
  • how many of these languages are endangered, or no longer spoken?
  • the age of the speakers of the so-called healthy languages?
  • how to begin a project on describing an indigenous language?
  • where you would look for teaching materials or guides?
  • where you can learn about indigenous languages of the Americas?
  • where you would find assistance in Native languages curriculum development and methods?

Program Overview

The Linguistics Department at the University of Arizona offers a Master of Arts in Native American Linguistics. The program's chief objective is to provide best practices in Native American Linguistics and languages.

The foci of this degree are indigenous languages and communities. Due to the rapid decline in the use of heritage languages tribal communities pressed for practical linguistic training to:

  • maintain, restore, and document indigenous languages;
  • provide skills and expertise for Native American linguists to develop teaching grammars and other materials;
  • promote understanding of indigenous peoples' educational issues at every level of policy making;
  • enhance and promote understanding of complex factors leading to language choice, language shift and language loss;
  • locate talented students to advance to the Ph.D. level in linguistics or related disciplines.

Course Work

The Native American Linguistics and Languages Master of Arts (NAMA) program is designed to be completed in a year. During the first summer session the student completes coursework in the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) focusing on material development and teaching methods and other relevant Native American language and linguistic topics. In the fall and spring semesters, the student enrolls in the core course of the program, Workshop on Descriptive Linguistics, LING 597a for 4 credits each semester. The Workshop courses consist of lectures and laboratory work on indigenous languages, particularly the student's heritage language.

The Native American Linguistics and Language's Master's consist of 32 credits and plus 6 units of thesis hours.

Sample Course Schedule

Course                                            Title                                                                                                                   Units

     Summer Session   

LING 500                                         Linguistics for Native American Communities                                            3 
LCR 510                                          Foundations of Bilingual Education & Second Language Learning       3 

     Fall Session   

LING/AIS 597a                                Workshop in Descriptive Linguistics                                                             4

                                                           2 other courses from list below:                                                                    3/each 
                                                           Ling independent Study*                                                                                 2 
   Spring Semester   

LING/AIS 597a                                Workshop in Descriptive Linguistics                                                       4 

                                                           2 other courses from list below                                                                     3/each 
                                                           Ling independent Study*                                                                                 2 

   Summer Session   
                                                           6 Units of thesis hours   

     * Independent Study units are scheduled with approval of an advisor and students may work with a faculty member whose expertise is in the student's language or related topic.

     A thesis is required and is evaluated by the student's committee. The topic of the thesis must also be approved by the committee.

Course List

ANTH 538                Sociolinguistics
ANTH 620                Linguistic Field Technology 
LING 315                 Introduction to Phonology (permission of instructor) 
LING 503                 Foundation of Syntactic Theory I 
LING 535                 Morphology
LING 545a               Structures of Non-western Languages 
LING 544                 Typology and Universals 
LING/ANTH 576      Language in Culture 
LING 599                  Independent Study 
LING/ANTH 589      Areal Survey of Native North American Languages 
LRC/AIS 677            History of American Indian Education 
LRC 553                   Language Acquisition and Development 
LRC 541                   Language Acquistion: Introduction to American Indian Langugage Immersion 
LRC 528                   Curriculum & Instruction in Bilingual & Second Language Settings 
LRC/SLAT 554         Educational and Applied Linguistics 

Faculty with A Primary emphasis in Native American Linguistics

  • Coordinator of Program: Mary Willie. Associate Professor (UArizona) Navajo Linguistics and American Indian Studies, Navajo language and linguistics, morphology and syntax.
  • Andrew Carnie. Associate Professor (MIT) Nez Perce linguistics, Syntactic Theory, Morphosyntax, Verb initial languages, Celtic linguistics 
  • Heidi Harley. Associate Professor (MIT) Yaqui morphology, Syntax, morphology, lexical semantics, formal semantics
  • Natasha Warner. Associate Professor (UC Berkeley) Mutseng Language, Phonetics, Experimental Phonology, Language Maintenance 
  • Ofelia Zepeda. Professor (UArizona) Tohono O’odham Linguistics, AILDI Co-director, Lexicography, Language Maintenance 
  • Amy Fountain. Lecturer (UArizona) Navajo linguistics, Phonology, Phonetics, general American Indian survey course
  • Carol Uentillie. Adjunct Lecturer in Navajo language

Other Faculty with Native American Linguistic Interests

  • Mary Carol Combs. Language Planning and Policy, Indigenous Language Revitalization, Bilingual Education Law and Policy. 
  • Perry Gilman. Language and Cultural Revitalization, Language and Identity, Literacy in Sociocultural Context. 
  • Jane Hill. (Regents’ Professor) Uto-Aztecan, Language & Culture, Language Endangerment
  • Tsianina K. Lomawaima. Ethnohistory, History of American Indian Education, Federal Indian Policy 
  • Norma Mendoza-Denton. Sociolinguistics, Language & Ethnicity, Language & Gender 
  • Susan Penfield. Mohave Language and Technology, Documentation and Revitalization 
  • Muriel Saville-Troike. Ethnography of Communication, Language Attrition, Second Language Acquisition 
  • Emory Sekaquaptewa. Hopi Language in Culture, Hopi Language Lexicography 
  • Rudy Troike. Plains-Texas Ethnohistory, Languages of Texas & Northern Mexico, Quechua 
  • Leisy Wyman. Indigenous Education, Yup'ik Language and Culture, Language Planning and Policy

For more information about the program, please contact:

Mary Willie, Associate Professor
mwillie@email.arizona.edu
Phone 520-621-9726

Ofelia Zepeda, Regents’ Professor
ofelia@email.arizona.edu
Phone 520-621-8294

Related Topic(s):