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Featured language:  Kham

Submitted by Hanieh Nezakati on May 10, 2021 - 5:08pm
Cairen Lhayong in Gyegu monastery during the annual Sakya monlam [saʧʰɨmilã] event, during which hundreds of monks and nuns pray and chant for world peace.
Gyegu Prayer House, Tibet

Barley powder, butter tea, horse racing, monasteries, yaks, snow leopards, and a beautiful writing system.

What language family comes to mind?

Tibetan! During Spring 2021, Cairen Lhayong [tsʰɨreɬajoŋ], a native speaker of Kham/Khams (khg) (ཁམས་སྐད) Tibetan, which is spoken in China (not to be confused with Kham (kjl) Himalayan, spoken in Nepal) is working with LING 580 Field Methods class members Sharon Hargus, Trent Ukasick, Bryan Thompson as well as auditor Nathan Loggins, patiently and graciously answering questions about the grammar and lexicon of Kham. Cairen Lhayong [tshɨrɪɬajoŋ], grew up in Yushu City or Gyegu [ʧekɨh], Yushu prefecture, Qinghai province. She is trilingual in Standard Chinese and English as well as her native language Kham Tibetan (Yushu dialect), [ʧekɨkiʔ]. Cairen Lhayong graduated from UW Winter 2021 with a MATESOL degree. As part of the requirements for that degree, she took two Linguistics classes (400 with Laura McGarrity, 461 with Kirby Conrod). Nathan met Cairen Lhayong one day by chance in the English Department TA office, and they immediately started talking about all things Tibetan. They have been friends since then, and over summer 2020 he consulted with her on Tibetan morphosyntax for part of his dissertation. Later that year Nathan introduced Cairen Lhayong to Sharon.  

Meeting over Zoom makes accurate transcription even more challenging, so prior to the start of the class, Sharon supplied Cairen Lhayong with a recording device so that she records herself saying the words and sentences produced during the class and then uploads them for class members to download and listen to, correcting their in-class transcriptions before the next class. Trent set up a FLEx database which all class members contribute to. Class time is spent on a combination of the following activities: discussion of a weekly reading, discussion of previous and upcoming assignments, elicitation of new data, recording of new data, and planning for the next session. Field methods classes can be a great source of data for students working on generals papers and/or dissertations.

The photo of Cairen Lhayong above is part of a PowerPoint presentation she shared with the rest of the class and the world.