Hans Nelson, Mike Manookin & Dirk Elzinga, Brigham Young University


A Chemehuevi Lexicon

Chemehuevi is a Uto-Aztecan language closely related to Southern Paiute. It is spoken in Western Arizona and Eastern California on two reservations: the Colorado River Indian Reservation at Parker, Arizona, and the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation in adjacent California. At present, there are fewer than 20 speakers of the language; all are over the age of 40. No children are currently learning the language as a first language. Recently, attempts have been made by the Chemehuevis to initiate language programs in their community; they have enlisted the aid of educators, anthropologists, and linguists in these efforts.

We have been charged with initiating one such program: the continued construction and preservation of a lexicon for the Chemehuevi language. Our task was to first port the existing lexicon from an outdated proprietary database into a comma delimited text file which could then be added to, viewed, and edited in Microsoft Excel or other similar database programs. The next step was to create a tool by which these lexical entries contained in Excel could then be easily exported to an XML format automatically. This XML database was then transformed, using various XSL stylesheets, into HTML WebPages accessible on-line, thus separating data presentation from the data itself.

This project provides crucial documentation for an endangered language, and gives the Chemehuevi community direct access to written forms of the language using current and widely available technology. This project also implements a new approach to the problem of online documentation (e.g. maintenance, updating) of digital language resources.