Kashaya Dictionary




Associate Professor of Linguistics

Project Summary

This summer, I worked on the Kashaya Dictionary project under the supervision of Dr. Gene Buckley in the linguistics department.  As a team, Dr. Buckley, another PURM student, and myself continued Dr. Buckley’s work on his prototype of a dictionary for Kashaya, a Native American language spoken in northern California.  Kashaya is a member of the Pomo language family, which consists of seven distinct languages that evolved from a common ancestor over time.  These languages are all extinct or in danger of extinction: Kashaya is the most commonly spoken today and, in the 1990s, had dozens of speakers.  At least two Pomoan languages are believed to be extinct today.

The data used for our project consists of recorded sentences and phrases from Kashaya speakers, spanning from the 1950s to 2014.  Earlier data was recorded by Robert Oswalt, who began the project in the 1950s and continued to work on the dictionary until his death in 2007.  Dr. Buckley began to study Kashaya in the 1980s and 1990s, and has since become the main researcher on Kashaya.  In our work this summer, we analyzed the collected data by creating, editing, and clarifying dictionary entries for each word evidenced in the recordings.

The goal of this project is to eventually publish a functional dictionary of the Kashaya language.  While such a dictionary may be incomplete, especially in its earlier versions, this dictionary will have a number of applications that can benefit both the Kashaya-speaking and general American populations once it is published.  Non-Kashaya speaking linguists, for example, can utilize the dictionary in conducting a variety of research that involves Native American languages.  Such a dictionary would also prove useful to younger Kashaya speakers who speak the language less fluently than did their ancestors, as English has become more prevalent in their community.  These less fluent speakers can use the dictionary to improve their knowledge of the language.  Additionally, as English overtakes less-commonly spoken languages, such as Kashaya and other Pomoan languages, this dictionary will preserve the Kashayan language and confirm its existence for anyone who wishes to study it in the future.