The Eastern Shoshone language, the member of the Uto-Aztecan language family spoken on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 100 fluent speakers remaining. In comparison with other members of the Uto-Aztecan language family, Eastern Shoshone is under-documented. The Eastern Shoshone Lexical Database, a project created as a partnership between the Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center and the American Indian Studies Program (AIS) at the University of Wyoming (UW), is a two-year research effort to develop an electronic lexical database by consolidating audio and transcribed lexical material. Upon completion, materials resulting from this project will be archived at the American Heritage Center (AHC) at the University of Wyoming.
This Eastern Shoshone documentation project will be led by the Director of the American Indian Studies Program at UW and by the Eastern Shoshone Language Coordinator at the Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center. A panel of five elders, a linguistic anthropologist, a research assistant and a summer intern will complete the team. Project staff will extract lexical and linguistic material from existing textual documents as a starting point for the database. Approximately 14,000 Eastern Shoshone words, recorded digitally between 2002-2007, will be transcribed and added to the database in both audio and written formats, along with example phrases and sentences that will be elicited from the panel of elders during the course of this project. The database will include digital recordings of words, sample phrases and sentences, transcriptions of these words, phrases and sentences, English translation, and descriptive information. This project will create the first lexical database of Eastern Shoshone. Materials resulting form the project will provide the basis for the future development of additional language and teaching materials.
The Eastern Shoshone language, the member of the Uto-Aztecan language family spoken on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 100 fluent native speakers remaining. In comparison with other members of the Uto-Aztecan language family, Eastern Shoshone is underdocumented. Linguist David Shaul compiled a working dictionary and a grammar survey of the Eastern Shoshone language by gathering together several published works, manuscripts, and cassette recordings made by native speakers, and extracting vocabulary from them. The introduction of the dictionary includes information about these sources; they range from nineteenth century historical records to a recent, small language documentation project instigated by the Eastern Shoshone Cultural Center. David Shaul also standardized transcription in the dictionary, using a spelling system developed by an Eastern Shoshone tribal member. In sum, there are over 7,000 entries in the database, making it more comprehensive than any previous dictionary of Eastern Shoshone. The finished project is a considerable piece of work that will be valuable to the diminishing Eastern Shoshone language community. One copy of the database will be housed at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe will receive a second copy of the database.