The project “Documentation of Hoocąk” is part of the program “Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen” (DoBeS) and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Background of the funding initiative is the massive disappearing of languages throughout the world. The Hoocąk project is planned to run from 06/01/2003 – 05/31/2006.

Hoocąk (Winnebago) is a highly endangered Siouan language spoken in Wisconsin, USA. Of the approximately 5000 tribal members there are not more than 200 speakers left, all of whom are 50 years and more of age. Today’s children and parents generation is no longer able to speak their ancestors’ language. The language will be extinct within the next two decades if there are no substantial efforts of revitalization.

Linguistically, Hoocąk is a poorly described and documented language. There are, however, some useful lexical and grammatical studies. Additionally there are around 100 pages of mythological texts recorded by the anthropologist Paul Radin at the beginning of the 20th century. They have never been subject to a linguistic analysis and are hardly accessible without a profound knowledge of the language. Other text types have not been recorded at all.

The overall goal of the project is the documentation and preservation of the Hoocąk language. It therefore includes the following sub-projects:

  • (audio- and video-)recording, analysing, processing and archiving a representative corpus of Hoocąk texts
  • linguistic analysis and representation of texts that have previously been recorded by other linguists or anthropologists
  • development of a comprehensive and linguistically consistent lexicon
  • linguistic training of Hoocąk speakers
  • development of teaching material
  • further analyses (e.g. the investigation of dialectal differences among Wisconsin and Nebraska Hocanks)

An important precondition to achieve the goals of this project is a close cooperation of the German linguistic team with the staff and the teachers from the “Hoocąk Nation Language Division”. This division was founded in 1993.