FAU Ph.D. Project to Create First Online Comanche Dictionary

Comanche Buffalo hunters and their tepee lodges. August 1871. Public Domain

by P. Burks | Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Florida Atlantic University Ph.D. student Kathryn Pewenofkit Briner, D.M.A. (Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache descent), spent a week at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in August as part of the Smithsonian’s “Recovering Voices Community Research Program.” Briner led an eight-person team to work with written and recorded Comanche materials in the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives. The team, which included six Comanche Nation employees and FAU professors Michael Hamilton, Ph.D., and Viktor Kharlamov, Ph.D., gathered archival materials in order to fill in lexical gaps in Comanche vocabulary, grammatical content, and to increase phonological understanding. They looked at records dating back to the 1840s in order to trace the way the Comanche language has changed and grown. This work was part of Briner’s doctorate which focuses on creating the first online multimedia Comanche dictionary and learning tool.

Most of the few Comanche who can speak the language are elderly and currently there is no complete online resource for the language. Briner, an advanced second-language learner, has been working with first-language Comanche speakers over the last several years and has been awarded grants for her language work from the American Philosophical Society, the Endangered Language Fund’s Native Voices Endowment, and the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at FAU.

The Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices program is supporting Briner with a grant for her research. The program is a collaborative initiative of the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage that supports interdisciplinary research, documentation, and language/cultural revitalization for Indigenous communities.

For more information about the Ph.D. program in FAU’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, visit www.fau.edu/artsandletters/comparativestudies.

Image: Comanche Buffalo hunters and their tepee lodges. August 1871. Public Domain