Community Revival Of The Narragansett Language

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


This link, in the case of the Narragansett language, can only be established by the Narragansett nation itself, specifically the young generation being taught it. It would involve entire generations of Narragansett natives, including the ancestors who wrote down their words in the publication “The Narragansett Dawn” and by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island who transcribed Narragansett words. It would not only bring the living descendants together, but it would connect them to the very ancestors who passed down the words, either through the place-names in Rhode Island or on print.

The ethnonym Narragansett means “people of the small point of land.” That small point, of course, refers to the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, which has other place-names derived from the Narragansett language, such as Aquidneck, Miantanomi, Pojack, and Sakonnet. Upon developing the Rhode Island colony, Roger Williams wrote down Narragansett words in his book A Key Into The Language Of The Americas. This text provided the main cornerstone for the revitalization of the Narragansett language by the Aquidneck Indian Council. Of course, there were mistakes made by Roger Williams that the Council noticed, such as not providing examples of the obviative case.

The Narragansett people belong to the Narragansett Indian Nation of Rhode Island. They have lived in New England for 30,000 years prior to European colonization. Alongside the Wampanoags, Nipmucs, and other nations, the Narragansett nation was among the first to interact with British colonizers. One of them was Roger Williams. Decades later, they entered the Pequot War of 1675, by allying with King Philip to fight against the Puritans, until they were brutally defeated and sold into slavery. Their language was ultimately lost due to the encroachment of English linguistic hegemony.

Although a team of linguists can play a role in bringing back a dead language from archives, the language-speaking community itself would need to develop new speakers through a myriad of talents ranging from pedagogy, music, illustration, etc. Skills of many backgrounds would create a diverse interaction between members of the Narragansett Indian Nation. As such, all of them have a role to play in the revival of their own language. This is also what makes the academic linguistic community more connected with the cultures they study, by not sitting upon an ivory tower rather by actively engaging with the language-speaking community. Frank Waabu O’Brien, although a member of the Abenaki nation, has been the scholar who has been ardent in restoring the Narragansett language-speaking community. His articles span for two decades and has been an active leader in the Aquidneck Indian Council in their efforts to restore Narragansett.

Although writing the Narragansett language did exist in the past, tribal members trying to actively bring it back were also not exclusive to it. From 1935-6, a newspaper headed by the Narragansett chief, Princess Red Wing (whos birth name was Mary E. Glasko), began to circulate among the Narragansett community. Among other sections that discussed sports and issues involving Native Americans at the time, there was a section on each issue titled “The Narragansett Tongue,” which showed a list of words and their conjugations.

That is why the language-speakers must take advantage of every form of technology that has been innovated in order to transmit their language and hopefully preserve it. There exists a very cute way of teaching Narragansett words, which is a Facebook page titled “Speaking Our Narragansett Language,” which often include memes and videos with Narragansett words or translations.

To bring in new speakers of Narragansett means circulating it among themselves, which was the major importance of “The Narragansett Tongue.” It would become an integral part of Narragansett life and literature, as it would help educate the nation about their own language in order to regain fluency, even if it starts with phrases such as “Hello,” “My name is…,” and “Thank you.” Indeed, the word phrase for “hello” in New Zealand English, spoken by both native and non-native New Zealanders, is “kia ora” which is Maori for “be healthy.”

In the most successful example of extinct language revitalization, the speakers of the Hebrew language sought to bring it into their own homes. In other words, they had to invent words for appliances and food. This need to fill in any lexical gaps is a common feature in languages that were extinct by the time telephones were invented. This would be an obstacle I can imagine might happen to the Narragansett speakers.

There are different methods of introducing new speakers in a language revitalization project. When it comes to endangered languages, the remaining speakers are often the ones who teach the language. However, in an extinct language with no living speakers, there has to be at least one speaker that is fluent enough to pass it on to all generations, especially the young generation. As such, the transmitters of the language would have to be the ones who have adept scholarly knowledge about their own language. This was especially true for Jessie Little Doe Baird when she wanted to bring back the Wampanoag language and Daryl Baldwin who wanted to bring back his Myaamia language.

Considering how the Narragansett language is very similar to the Wampanoag language, with some scholars saying they are dialects, then it would be appropriate to see how the Wampanoag language is reclaiming its speakers. One way they have done so was to open up a preschool where young Wampanoag children are immersed in the language. For the Narragansett nation, they used to have a school.

I definitely think that it would be important to the Narragansett nation to restore their language, not just as words or phrases but as an active component of their Native American identity. Bringing back new speakers of the Narragansett language would also help to preserve the reservation’s unique identity in America that does not involve a casino, which has become a stereotype characteristic of many Native American nations. It would also help create a more well-educated view of Rhode Island, especially since when people think of that state, they think of Family Guy. I do believe that restoring the Narragansett language would be beneficial to Rhode Island as much as restoring the Wampanoag language would be to Massachusetts.

As Frank Waabu O’Brien would conclude in Narragansett:


“Peace be in your hearts.”


Image Attribution: Twitter

“Literally” Is Literally Used Wrong, Literally

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


I hear the word “literally” used by many people around me, and even my fellow English majors use “literally” loosely.

You are not being literal if you are being figurative. In order to place a literal modification on a word, it first has to be a figure of speech before you can put “literally” before or after it. You are being literal if you are driving down some western interstate highway, your car breaks down just between two giant rock formations, you put your four-ways on, and you call your long-lost friend you were about to visit to say, “Here’s the thing. I’m LITERALLY stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

You are also being literal if you walk into a Barnes & Noble, find a book, look at its cover without opening it, and scoff, “What pretentious, elitist drivel,” which at that point, you LITERALLY judged a book by its cover.

It is not just in the figurative context that I noticed the word being used, but also when emphasizing something, like when some girl says, “Oh, she’s LITERALLY the worst!” Unless you are saying that she is the worst competently in a context where that word usually refers to the person’s moral character, then replace it with “really.” Even the Oxford Dictionary succumbed to stating that it is the case in an informal sense. Well, I would hope to use “literal” in the more formal sense.

“Literally” is formally used when trying to draw comparison between two meanings of the same phrase or word. Those two meanings are meant to be both a figure of speech AND relevant to the real-world topic being discussed. So, “literally” would mean that it is a non-exaggerated use of a commonly exaggerated phrase.

There are articles I wrote, such as this and this, in which I have used “literal,” or any other conjugation of that word in what I concluded was its most appropriate context. I would hope that I am not being judgmental when I say that people use “literally” wrong, but what would the point of my English major be if I did not pay close attention to word choice and context?

If I have not won anyone over, then at least remember the Boy who Cried “Literally.” I would just hope you do not literally laugh your guts out.

Analysis Is Important In And Out Of The Classroom

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


As an English major, what I have learned thus far in my own educational life is that it is one thing to attend class, but it does not end there; for what really matters is integrating the education and applying it to everyday life. This is a mission statement that the National Research Council has promoted. In which case, the concept of analysis is a strong basis for developing good argumentation.

In Jackson’s research of 138 universities (which included baccalaureate colleges, master’s colleges and research universities), he found that 92% of them instituted analysis as curricula for first-year students for their composition class. However, they make it clear that analysis is not strictly a school genre and can be used beyond the composition class and into different situations. What makes student analysis different from analysis outside of the classroom is the terminology that is used that is traced to poetics, linguistics, rhetoric and semiotics. Even before I majored in English, I was made to enroll in required classes in my first few semesters which involved analysis.

The very same analysis used in class assignments should be used in day-to-day life. Jackson, in his article, argued that students using their analyses in argumentative ways has shown by research to be a skill ingrained from the classroom. When I wrote my article about whether it was possible to reconstruct the Virginia Algonquian language, I examined research that effused a strong argumentation, such as work done by anthropologists and people who actually worked on the site of the Powhatan Indians. One situation for freshman college students is arguing a more developed opinion on any topic no matter how subjective it may appear, and not out of a simple inference. Indeed, I have truly benefited from being taught analysis as an English major when finding which dialogue, CGI, areas of setting and characterization does not fit in the Star Wars film series.

There are a wide variety of media to analyze that include essays, film, music, speeches, fiction and web pages. But to analyze means to ask “what?” but also “who? where? how? and probably why?,” to paraphrase Jeanne Fahnestock and Marie Secor from the Jackson article. Understanding the context of the artifact is a key characteristic of analysis, which is by comprehending what the intended audiences might interpret from the literature and films published in their time period. Jackson’s experience as a First-Year Composition professor taught him himself what textbooks and writing programs could not; which is that the context was missing from students’ analyses, even though they appreciated the works of FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The opposition in Jackson’s article stated that analysis in first-year composition isn’t implemented the way it should because it is based on general writing skills and not about actively using them. I would argue that it would be because the students do not have the opportunities to implement such writing skills in their daily, non-educational lives. In other words, they would simply write their analyses, not experience them through situated evaluation. As such, that first-year composition class would only exist in the back of the students’ minds as yet another prerequisite class that was taken.

As Jackson pointed out in his article, people use analysis when they most need it, such as when a consumer reads a small-print contract or a widow reads fake charities. I can remember taking my Literacy Studies class exclusive to English majors and learned that it is not enough to be literate but to become an analytical reader in order to be an active participant of democracy. I will say that I tried to become, as Jackson would call, a citizen-critic. Although there was to be more research into how effective analysis can travel with a student, it is clear that it does occur. I also think it would help for First-Year composition courses to be focused not just on writing skills but also on rhetorical analysis. It would be one step in ensuring that universities are experiential opportunities, not a fancy, social club with biannual membership fees that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

On Identity

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


I think of this concept as having internal value. In other words, it encompasses how you live your life, how you eat, where you live, who you associate with, what inspires your creativity, and what modifies your worldview.

All kinds of identities exist: Irish identity, Italian identity, Puerto Rican identity, Black identity, Cherokee identity, Jewish identity, Coptic identity, etc. I usually think of them as nations within nations. There are different forms of identities such as national, ethnic, cultural, religious, etc.

As a History minor, from studying the barbarian tribes of Europe, some of whom would become the ancestors of modern Europeans (Franks, Gauls, Burgundians, etc.), it is clear that labels are created from any overwhelming problems that arise.

In the case of those tribal confederacies, they banded together because the Romans expanded their empire and crossed into their territories. It is also important to note that people can mold their identities as a form of adaptability. Just like how the Europeans molded their identities in the face of Roman hegemony, there were African slaves in the Americas who molded their identities in the face of White hegemony.

The ones who were settled in the islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia would create a language that had the English words imposed upon them while also using the grammar from the African languages they originally spoke. They would become the Gullah people.

There were other cases when African slaves would run from their plantations and either became adopted by a Native American tribe or form their own tribe within the Amazonian rainforest or the Jamaican mountains in the case of the Maroons.

Such sociological courses of action can be creative acts of resistance in harrowing circumstances. From the struggle through slavery molded the Gullah, Garifuna, and Maroon identities.

Besides my research in history (both in my curriculum and in my free time in the Bankier Library of Brookdale Community College), what also stood out in my linguistics class was learning how there really is no strict dichotomy between “civilized’ and “primitive” languages. This was argued by linguist Claude Levi-Strauss, who studied the naming within the natural world by indigenous South Americans, which was as complex as the nomenclature used by academic biologists.

Since language is important for connecting people of the same identity, I will also argue that there is no strict dichotomy between “civilized” and “primitive” groups. No one group of people are as sophisticated as they would like you to believe. In the case of the European tribes, they had to borrow their prestige from the Romans.

But another way of connecting with people of the same identity is entering an invisible contract. It’s not through a metric system or how pure your lineage is, but by how much you value and respect the customs that come with identity alongside modernity and progression.

Identity is also not of capitalistic value. To respect it means to not bestow it with a kitsch authenticity. For example, not celebrating Irish heritage by getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day, or only listening to rap music to get a good feel of African-American culture. Truly understanding those identities means learning basic words and salutations in the endangered Irish Gaelic language and the perseverance of gospel sung by slaves that would evolve into such genres as Blues, Jazz, and R&B.

Identities can also be preserved in adaptive ways. One of those ways involves code-switching and the separation of outside and inside the house. Malayali might be spoken in the house, while outside of the house English is spoken.

Understanding how others’ differences can unite us, even more, may sound paradoxical, but it can be a fascinating journey. It is also about developing empathy, primarily in the face of cyclical events.

Just as much as Latin American and Muslim immigrants are demonized today, this harkens back to the Japanese after the Pearl Harbor attacks, as well as the Irish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants in the later 1800’s.

On St. Patrick’s Day of this year, Irish senator Aodhan Riordan announced that members of the Trump administration with Irish names who approved of the travel ban “…have no Irish heart anymore.

However, there are harmful identities out there that are based on attaining power and superiority over other identities.

What I don’t like about the label “White identity” is the history behind such a label, with such proponents as the Ku Klux Klan and the Alt-Right.

That label also doesn’t take into account that White people don’t have a common history in America amongst themselves, since Anglo-Saxon-Americans had a different history from Irish-Americans, who had a different history from Italian Americans, who had a different history from Polish Americans, etc.

One of the leading figures in the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer, in his infamous “Hail Trump!” speech following the election of Donald Trump, talked about whiteness, “To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer, and a conqueror.”

It is not just the domineering nature of White supremacy that is the problem, but also sets the bar really high on qualifying as a decent enough White person. If being White means admiring and emulating the likes of Christopher Columbus, the Crusaders, Adolf Hitler, Confederate generals, and Donald Trump, then it would be fair to say that a small handful of old, rich White men have the right to be proud of their whiteness, as Spencer himself would define it, and the rest of the White people are just disposable.

In an identity without such cancerous mutations, nobody is disposable, either within or outside the group; and it does not determine who is superior or inferior. It does not run like a business, but a family, a family willing to welcome anyone wanting to learn about them. It is something to be shared, not enforced.

Another identity that is also based on supremacy and subjugation is radical Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamic fundamentalism, or whatever you want to call it.

It is aggressively pushed by the clergy of the Saudi royal family into the televisions and newspapers throughout the Arab world and into the hearts of young, impressionable people. This is the perfect example of a hierarchical identity that consists of a small number of wealthy people controlling the majority.

In the article, “Saudi Arabia: An ISIS That Has Made It,” Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud makes a point that “ISIS is first and foremost a culture, not a militia.” Indeed, Islamofascism is a culture based on subjugating other identities, such as the Berbers, Copts, Kurds, Assyrians, Yazidis, etc. Who are also included are adherents of other branches of Islam, such as Shi’ites if the subjugators are Sunni (or vice versa).

To be a good Muslim, in this identity, means to declare war on anyone who is opposed to a global theocracy; which involves admiring and emulating the military exploits of the prophet Muhammad, Amr ibn al-As, Saladin, Osama Bin Laden, Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi, etc.

What makes a religious identity like this cancerous is how it relies on the ultraconservative interpretation of Islam. Without such strict adherence, religious identity only involves an Emersonian relationship between a person and the God of his/her religion without any intermediaries.

In the face of those domineering forms of identity, people do have the ability to adapt and persevere, as I mentioned early in this article as well as in my other article. The very fact that an identity is not abandoned but preserved and not corrupted but molded is an act of victory against supremacy.

Personally, I am about to graduate with a B.A. in English with a Minor in History. One of my biggest regrets thus far is not becoming an Anthropology minor, because I find it truly fascinating how entire peoples can forge an identity for themselves with whatever tools are at their disposal. It is thus important to note that an identity is a history of the human condition.

Water Discovered In Jupiter

As it turned out, there has been a recent discovery by NASA into the Great Red Spot that has been most prominently featured on the face of the planet Jupiter. There has been detection of moisture found within the clouds of Jupiter, which could hold the possibility of water.

What makes Jupiter’s storms different from Earth’s is that Jupiter itself is 1000 times bigger, consists of gas, and rotates completely once in nine hours. This results in much more bigger storms. Also, while the weathers on Earth are affected by the Sun, since Jupiter is further away from the Sun, the weather activity is caused from the heat from the inside.

More specifically, the Great Red Spot is the major focus of this discovery. It is a 400-year-old torrential storm that encompasses 10,000 miles and moves at 200 miles. Within it are three layers of clouds: 1. ammonia; 2. mix of ammonia and sulfur; 3. icy and liquid water. This lowest layer of the Great Red Spot is what made Gordon L. Bjoraker, an astrophysicist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, fascinated as soon as he discovered it.

How Bjoraker managed to discover this moisture was by working with a team of researchers to use an infrared spectrometer from the W. M. Keck Observatory and an spectrograph from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. These were used to measure the wavelengths of light being projected from the Spot in order to see which chemicals were within it.

Detecting the wavelengths of the light as a way to find water on Jupiter was also used by Clemson University’s Professor Mate Adamkovics and his undergraduate research assistant by detecting the water spectra within the ice clouds on Jupiter outside of the Great Red Spot.

Amidst the elements within the layers of clouds, Bjoraker and his researchers found methane gas. This chemical was considered an important part of the research, as it helped Bjoraker and his team to determine where the clouds are detected and how they are moving. It turned out that the movements were being influenced by the lowest layer of clouds, which is what blocks the radiation from the Sun from entering the core.

While the core of Jupiter is made of ice, the rest of the gas planet consists of clouds. What also made the discovery of water possible was the presence of thunder and lightning within the clouds.

This is definitely a generation-defining discovery, alongside the discovery of ice on the poles of planet Mars. It is phenomenal in so much as it may answer many more questions about what lurks within Jupiter’s clouded surface.