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A dictionary for the Yakama language, more than 20 years in the making
Creating a dictionary for a fading language can help breathe new life and relevance into that tongue. That's why UW Linguistics Professor Sharon Hargus and Virginia Beavert of the Yakama Nation and the University of Oregon have reason to be proud -- they've just published a major dictionary of the Sahaptin dialect of the Yakama language.

Ichishkiin Sinwit Yakama / Yakima Sahaptin Dictionary, created by Hargus and Beavert with full-color illustrations and essays by Bruce Rigsby, a linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Queensland, was published in March by University of Washington Press.

It's a large, handsome volume -- 566 pages in all, and comes with a CD of MP3 sound files as an aid to pronunciation. The book was a co-production with Heritage University, in Toppenish, Wash. The book's Web site is hosted by the UW Language Learning Center, where the sound files are linked to the Sahaptin dictionary text.

''I was in shock for a while. I could not believe we had actually finished it,'' said Beavert, who at 88 is a virtual walking dictionary and encyclopedia of the Yakama Nation. A deeply respected tribal member, she was the first woman elected to the tribe's General Council and is regarded as one of the few remaining fluent speakers of the Yakama dialect...

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UW Linguistics Alumus Scott Drellishak dissertation nominated for Award Competition
Having considered numerous dissertations completed in the past year at UW, the UW Graduate School has chosen to forward the nomination of Dr. Scott Drellishak's dissertation, "Widespread but Not Universal: Improving the Typological Coverage of the Grammar Matrix", to the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) for its 2009 WAGS/UMI Innovation in Technology Award competition.

The Graduate School received a number of nominations from various graduate programs, and the quality of the work was superb. Dean Gerald Baldasty found the opportunity to review these submissions to be a real privilege, and felt that each of the nominations received was a striking reminder of the exceptional research that is completed by our graduate students.

More info: here

Assistant Professor Emily Bender receieves 2009 R1edu award
Assistant Professor Emily Bender has been selected to receive the 2009 R1edu award for significant contributions to online and distance learning.

R1edu represents a consortium of 34 of the leading institutions in North America who have a significant online learning program. In addition to joint programmatic initiatives, R1edu selects one faculty member nationally a year to recognize their contributions in the field of distance learning. Please see http://www.R1edu.org for information about the organization.

This year, the selection committee was impressed with her ongoing work on the master degree in Computational Linguistics. They noticed that in 2007 she launched an online pilot for a course in the UW Master Degree in Computational Linguistics, using web conferencing as the course delivery method. She then expanded this approach into an online Certificate Program in Natural Language Technology the next year. This fall, she is starting an online option to deliver the entire Computational Linguistics degree online with this technology. This approach opened the degree program to new audiences who are 1) geographically remote from the classroom and 2) cannot otherwise attend afternoon courses on campus. It also allows increased flexibility for local students. A student from Oklahoma indicated that ''the online CLMA is especially beneficial to me, because I would be unable to achieve such a degree locally. With a family established in Oklahoma, it is less viable for me to relocate to complete a degree program not offered in my state. This program offers me exactly what I need, and precisely what I cannot obtain here.'' A local student attended class from home on multiple occasions ''while caring for my son while my wife was at work. Furthermore, the ability to go back and replay lectures that I attended either in class or from home was a tremendous advantage. I am convinced that I would not have fared as well in the course had these things not been available.''

UW CLMA student awarded prestigious K99 grant
CLMA student Imre Solti has been awarded a prestigious K99 grant from NIH and the National Library of Medicine. The goal of the grant, which includes two years of training and three years of research funds, is to semi-automate the clinical trial eligibility screening process for patients using Computational Linguistics methods on the patients' narrative text notes in the electronic medical record.

More info: here

Yakama tribal elder Virginia Beavert receives honorary degree
The UW conferred an honorary degree for Virginia Beavert at the Commencement exercises June 13, 2009 at Husky Stadium.

Virginia Beavert, a Yakama tribal elder who has played a pivotal role in the preservation and documentation of the Sahaptin language, the ancestral language of the native people of central Washington and Oregon, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Beavert's scholarship extends over the past 30 years. She is almost singlehandedly responsible for preserving a language once spoken by people who inhabited one third of Washington State until 160 years ago. Her work on documentation, development and revitalization of the Sahaptin language is recognized throughout North America and increasingly throughout the world.

Although her work directly benefits the Yakama and other Sahaptin tribes, it also provides a model for other indigenous peoples faced with a vanishing language.

Beavert has taught Sahaptin for more than a quarter century at various colleges and universities in the northwest, including Central Washington University, Yakima Valley Community College, Heritage University and the University of Oregon. She is the author and co-author of numerous scholarly articles on Sahaptin, and this year, the University of Washington Press and Heritage University will jointly publish the first comprehensive dictionary of the Sahaptin language, her life's work.

Adapted from: uwnews.org

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