Joanne DiNova: M’Naa-Giigdaa: Imag(in)ing Indigeneity in Language

Joanne DiNova: M’Naa-Giigdaa: Imag(in)ing Indigeneity in Language
By - 2013

This collaborative research project between Dr. Joanne DiNova (School of Professional Communication) and Dr. Lila Pine (RTA School of Media aims to develop a way of visualizing language while also reclaiming Indigenous languages and reigniting Indigeneity in English. Specific objectives are (1) to develop software capable of visualizing spoken language; (2) to develop a data-driven mapping system capable of analyzing the visualizations; (3) to use conventional linguistic tools to analyze languages; and (4) to infuse English with Indigeneity.

Inspired by recent developments in sonoluminescence, M’Naa-Giigdaa proposes to digitize sound energy and generate an exact visual replica of the resulting code. While symbolic representations and conventional mappings of sound have already been achieved, the aim of M’Naa-Giigdaa is to render the actual sounds of words visible. This will be done through a custom-made spectrogram that will visualize English and Indigenous languages and permit visual comparisons.

While Lila Pine heads up the new media component of the project, Joanne DiNova will compare Indigenous languages to English, structurally and conceptually, with the philosophical analysis being based on her understanding of Indigenous theory. Since features of language structure reflect worldviews, the need to analyze linguistic findings will be foregrounded.  Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), for example, is more than 80% verb-based; verbs are heavily inflected; the third-person does not distinguish between male, female, human, or non-human (he/she/it); uncertainty is emphasized using a variety of linguistic markers; and nouns are more descriptive than definitive.