## GoFundMe for the Ubykh Dictionary Project

My name’s Dr Rhona Fenwick. I’m an archaeologist and linguist who’s spent sixteen years working to document and begin reviving the beautiful, rich, and dying language of the Ubykh people, and I’m humbly asking for your assistance to support me financially while I finish writing the first truly comprehensive Ubykh dictionary.

The proposed dictionary builds on Dr. Fenwick's 2011 Grammar of Ubykh, which a book notice in Language described this way:

The Northwest Caucasian (NWC) family contains some of Europe’s most incompletely described languages, which are relatively unknown beyond Russia and the Caucasus region itself. Basic questions remain without consensus regarding their polysynthetic verb structure and typologically marked phonology, which consists of over eighty consonant phonemes and only one to three vowel phonemes. This full-length grammar of the recently extinct Ubykh, one of the family’s three primary branches alongside the Abkhaz and Adyghe dialect continua, is an important contribution to NWC linguistics for several reasons.

3. ### J.W. Brewer said,

March 5, 2018 @ 4:41 pm

Quoth wikipedia: "the Dutch linguist Rieks Smeets is currently trying to compile a new Ubykh dictionary based on Vogt's 1963 book, and a similar project is also underway in Australia." Dr. Fenwick's project is presumably the Australian one, but it's not immediately clear whether Dr. Smeets' project is still active and if so whether it is complementary to Dr. Fenwick's work or whether the two are working at cross purposes.

4. ### Smith said,

March 5, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

This approach to an endangered language still makes considerably more sense than the one at https://www.duolingo.com/comment/26464603

5. ### Rhona Fenwick said,

March 5, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

@Philip Taylor:

Should not the sample chapter and the comment functionality be open to all, not just those who elect to espouse Academic.edu and Facebook ?

Ideally, yes. If I had the money to pay for a website, or had an institutional website through which I could host the draft, I would have hosted it there. And – mea culpa – I was not aware that since I'd joined Academia had changed to forbid access to all without an Academia account (indeed, that's the primary reason I'd been using Academia and avoiding others such as Scribd). This is disappointing, but useful, to know.

I've just change the link to point directly to a Dropbox link, which should (hopefully) be accessible to all. Please let me know if this doesn't work and I'll seek another option.

6. ### Rhona Fenwick said,

March 5, 2018 @ 11:12 pm

@Mark Liberman:

In fact it's not clear to me why anyone would give their work to a company whose role seems to be entirely parasitical.

As I explained to you privately, it was because (a) Lincom were the only publishing house who had a book series in Caucasian linguistics, (b) it was suggested to me by Caucasologist colleagues, and most importantly, (c) because I was, from an academic viewpoint, much younger and sillier than I am now. And as you said, I'm aware now that to do this initial publication through Lincom was a mistake.

Posting the dictionary sample solely through the (for-profit start-up) Academia.edu is less harmful, but still far from a good practice.

Further to this comment and that from Philip Taylor above, I've given links to point to Dropbox and Zenodo instead, which will hopefully be accessible to all.

7. ### Rhona Fenwick said,

March 5, 2018 @ 11:22 pm

@J. W. Brewer:
Dr. Fenwick's project is presumably the Australian one, but it's not immediately clear whether Dr. Smeets' project is still active and if so whether it is complementary to Dr. Fenwick's work or whether the two are working at cross purposes.

The history of Ubykh lexicography is a complicated one and rumours abound. To the best of my knowledge Dr Smeets isn't actively pursuing this work, if indeed he ever was (there is no citation for the Wikipedia assertion and Smeets has published nothing on Ubykh since 1997; his primary research focuses seem to be elsewhere). Georges Charachidzé also advertised in 1997 the imminence of his own comprehensive Ubykh dictionary, compiled with the assistance of the good Tevfik Esenç, but since Charachidzé's death in 2010, logistical complications surrounding his estate have essentially aborted that project as well.

Long story short, several people seem to have made attempts, but mine is the only one that appears to be currently underway.

8. ### Rhona Fenwick said,

March 5, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

@Mark Liberman:

Most importantly of all, many thanks (and Language Log) for throwing your support behind this project. Awareness of the Ubykh language and the people it belongs to, and of the work still ongoing (and, I should emphasise, not only on my part) to support its importance as an invaluable cultural record, is not easy to sustain.

Anyone who's interested in this work, or would like to know more, please feel free to contact me at fenwick.rhona@gmail.com.

9. ### RachelP said,

March 6, 2018 @ 1:23 am

@Smith
That is actually quite an intriguing story. Do we think this is just some completely deluded person or there is an actual 'hidden' language being discussed. The total refusal to countenance anything that might actually help makes it seem like the the first.

10. ### S Frankel said,

March 6, 2018 @ 10:56 pm

@RachelP @Smith – "deluded" seems harsh, but the "Northern Gala" language is clearly a joke, and not a very well thought out one (the "native speaker" locates it in Northern Sweden, but the orthography is based on Norwegian, not Swedish, and he says that the language is being replaced by Norwegian. If you look at the language sample, you'll see things like "snoll tåns an Kråtå" for "small towns in Croatia," which is English, not Scandinavian. Etc., etc.)

11. ### mg said,

March 6, 2018 @ 11:38 pm

@Rhona Fenwick – you might want to get a free account on one of the blogging platforms like WordPress.com. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but gives you a free platform for posting information (though you'd probably still want to use the Dropbox link for anything too large).

I hope you are able to raise the funding for this important project.

12. ### Smith said,

March 7, 2018 @ 6:06 am

@RachelP

If the former, it wouldn't be the first time. Some kids in the Duolingo forums seem new to the internet as a whole and act unaware of other recourses. First there's that other "Duolingo save my language that no one else knew existed" case mentioned in the comments.

I've seen a few say upfront that they want to make up a language and want Duolingo to make a course for it, instead of going to any of the conlanger forum websites).

I've also seen some insist that Duolingo is needed to save existing endangered languages, teach young elementary schoolers language, etc. as if they have no concept of community language-preservation efforts, immersion schools (thinking "Imersion" must always mean crowdsourced translation instead because that's what Duolingo called the feature when they had it).

Then again, I also saw a guy with gray hair in his profile pic (definitely not a kid!) insist that Duolingo host his constructed dialects such as Esper' dialects (see https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Esper). He complained about storage space being too expensive when told that putting all his material for suggested courses in forum posts without backing it up anywhere else was an unwise move give the form mods' willingness to delete rapidly-posted floods…

In fact, the mods being relatively good at tidying up the forums is why I don't have links to these less recent shenanigans available.

13. ### Smith said,

March 8, 2018 @ 8:53 am

Anyway, I wholeheartedly support this model of language revival – it's letting the interested crowd support the experts, instead of having the experts struggle to finance the work or the crowd struggle to coordinate a little effort each from many trying to do the work.

Rhona Fenwick, about reviving "technically extinct" languages, have you seen the efforts for Wampanoag and Dharug (to any curious bystanders, see https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2017/03/25/how-revive-massachusetts-first-language/WflCNBgviT0cdGfbRNd1YL/story.html and http://www.abc.net.au/rn/legacy/features/holdingourtongues/transcript.htm )? The Ubykh dictionary (Ubykh-Turkish?) will be a big help for the teachers and childcare workers in later steps. :)