Linguistics Professor, Chickasaw Elder Win Prestigious Book Prize

Nov 13, 2009
By Kelsey Sharpe

UCLA Today:–chickasaw-elder-win-prestigious-book-prize.aspx

Pamela Munro, professor of linguistics, and Chickasaw native speaker Catherine Willmond have won the 2010 Bloomfield Book Award for their new book “Let’s Speak Chickasaw, Chikashshanompa’ Kilanompoli.'”

The biennial award, presented by the Linguistics Society of America since 1992, recognizes “the volume which makes the most outstanding contribution to the development of our understanding of language and linguistics.”

The first textbook of the Chickasaw language and its first complete grammar, “Let’s Speak Chickasaw” evolved from a book used for over a decade in a course on American Indian linguistics taught by Munro with assistance from Willmond. A Los Angeles resident, Willmond is an elder of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and a member of the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. Munro is a noted authority on dictionary creation whose credits include dictionaries of Zapotec, Wolof and UCLA Slang.

Focusing on conversational language, Munro and Willmond created an alphabet for the Chickasaw language based on earlier writing systems for Choctaw. The authors hope the book will help prevent the disappearance of the Chickasaw language, which is an endangered language spoken today by fewer than 200 people, primarily in the Chickasaw Nation of south-central Oklahoma.

“Chikashshanompa'” is Chickasaw for “Chickasaw language.” “Kilanompoli’” means “let’s speak.”