Reviving the Miami language from the dead

The podcast story “How the Miami Tribe got its language back” is really fascinating. The Myammia (“Miami”) tribe and language lost its last speaker decades ago. The story of how and why the language went out of usage is not pleasant, but worth knowing. Regardless, thanks to the work of early linguists during the time when the language was spoken, there were historical records of the language (vocab, pronunciation, and perhaps grammar). Thanks to the interest of a Myammia descendent, a linguist, and a seed amount of resources, a lot of work coalesced in reviving the language into something that is spoken by a few hundred people on some basis. For a language that had completely died decades ago, that’s remarkable. Hearing the full story is worth it, especially for certain tidbits that do not appear in the written article. For example, students came from distant, disparate regions to learn the Myammia language at Miami University (OH), but there was not as much speaking among the students outside of the class as they hoped. It remained mainly an academic exercise of second-language learning. The big spark happened when they introduced a new class to the curriculum that also taught the history and traditions of the Myammia. There was a huge upsurge in usage and attachment to the language as a sense of identity took root among the learners.