Ute Mountain Ute Tribe launches digital Ute language dictionary

Photo Credit: Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe with support from The Language Conservancy will be launching a web and mobile Ute language dictionary Thursday, Nov. 18, during a community release event.

The Ute Language digital dictionary is the latest resource for speakers and students of the Ute Language. Time is critical for this Indigenous community as they fight to reinvigorate the next generation of learners. It is estimated that today there are a little over 110 fluent Ute Mountain Ute speakers. The Ute Mountain Ute digital dictionary will be free to access online or to download as an app on both iOS and Android devices. The release event will honor those involved in the process of creating this new language learning resource and all of the knowledge they contributed. Attendees of the release event will get an interactive tutorial demonstrating how the learning software works.

Building the dictionary has been a process involving twenty-one Ute Mountain Ute speakers, a team of linguists, and multiple Rapid Word Collections (RWCs). RWC is a contemporary method of compiling language databases. The initial RWC was hosted in 2019, and speakers and linguists collected roughly 3,000 words for the dictionary. The second virtual RWC in January and February 2021 resulted in another 4,000 words collected. The Ute Mountain Ute digital dictionary will continue to be updated over time as additional words are gathered and verified.

The web and mobile dictionary’s release comes just ahead of what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has deemed the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, starting in January 2022. UNESCO’s recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ linguistic rights and the concerted efforts of tribal elders, like those of the Ute Mountain Ute, will hopefully create powerful momentum for the language revitalization movement.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe are the Weeminuche band of the Ute people. The Ute Mountain Ute Reservation is a sovereign nation located in what is presently known as the Four Corners region of the United States. It is home to approximately 2,000 people.

The Language Conservancy (TLC) is a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for the revitalization of Indigenous languages by developing programs, materials, and technologies in close partnership with Indigenous communities.

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