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A183, An Ultrasound Investigation of Consonant Harmony in Tahltan (tht)
(Douglas H. Whalen, PI)

Research Goals.The goal of this grant is to provide ultrasound evidence of tongue grooving in Tahltan consonant harmony to test Gafos's (1996) prediction that such grooves associated with fricatives can explain the harmony as a local process despite its seemingly long-distance nature.

Current status: Funded for 3/15/2011 to 2/29/2012. Amount: $99,807. Source: NSF, Arctic Social Sciences program.

This RAPID project, PI Doug Whalen, is perhaps the "last chance" to record critical phonological data on the world's only known, spoken, 3-way consonant harmony language, Tahltan. Tahltan, is a heritage language with only a few remaining speakers living (estimated 35, >67ya) on the North West Coast of Canada. Tahltan is a Northern Athabaskan language and as such closely related to the Athabaskan languages spoken in the circumpolar north. Using an ultrasound, of the same kind used in hospitals, the PI will record Tahltan speakers reading a set list of Tahltan words that will elicit consonant harmony speech situations in order to test the hypothesis put forward - that this unique 3-way consonant harmony is the result of a specific groove formation in the tongue for the three classes of consonants. This project has potential implications for a broader debate about the relationship between brain/body interactions. In addition, the proposed research will be documenting aspects of a language soon to be extinct; the project includes the participation of a university student and will provide valuable field training to the student as he/she pursues his/her science education. The project is also in cooperation with Dr. Patricia Shaw, who has worked collaboratively with the Tahltan people in documenting their language and brings those community relationships to this project.