• Western Gwich'in classificatory verbs

      Bushey, Scott T.; Tuttle, Siri; Peter, Hishinlai'; Vajda, Edward (2021-05)
      One of the many challenges faced by learners and teachers of Gwich'in, an endangered Athabascan or Dene language of Alaska and Canada, is a lack of instructional material for classificatory verbs. These verbs classify states and actions, such as lie, carry, and fall, by perceived qualities, such as cloth-like and stick-like, that indicate how and with which nominal entities the state or action takes place. For students of Gwich'in and other Dene languages, such as Navajo and Koyukon, classificatory verbs are an important grammar objective when included in the curriculum. Recognition and production of classificatory verbs is a main objective for students in the second year of the UAF Gwich'in class. Classificatory verb words are also present in vocabulary learned from the first year, such as gishreiin'ąįį "it's sunny" and OBJ naltsuu "I'm wearing OBJ [upper-body garment]". In this thesis I present a documentary, descriptive study of classificatory verbs and their qualities in modern spoken Gwich'in. The first goal of the study is to document examples of Gwich'in classificatory verbs in conversational and narrative discourse, and the second is to describe their morphosemantic properties and behavior. The third goal is to accomplish these documentary and descriptive aims in a way that can be adapted readily to the needs of not only linguists, but also Gwich'in language learners and teachers. Informed by previous documentary and descriptive work on classificatory verbs in other Dene languages, I attempt to provide a similarly useful text for Gwich'in, reconciling several competing nomenclatures and illustrating the relationship between classificatory verb theme sets, such as "carry", and semantic classes of verb stems, such as "animate", in a broad range of modal and aspectual contexts. Although this thesis is intended primarily as a reference work for learners and teachers, it also provides a resource for linguists comparing Gwich'in classificatory verbs with those in related Dene languages. The classificatory verb data in this thesis is drawn from a body of Gwich'in class notes and assignments, well as transcribed Gwich'in oral literature and consultation with a native speaker of the language. Classroom instruction took place between 2018 and 2020 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and emphasized spoken language production with communicative aims. In addition to work from the Gwich'in language classroom, limited native speaker consultation regarding classificatory verbs was also conducted in February 2020. The third data source for this study is the rich body of narrative discourse available in the form of transcribed oral literature. These works record Gwich'in traditional narrative knowledge, lore, and history across a broad range of topics, in which classificatory verbs may be readily encountered and examined. Having drawn from these three pools of data, this thesis describes the morphosemantic qualities of Gwich'in classificatory verbs while considering the available data on other Dene languages and considers actual and potential application of this data in the language classroom.