Travel Scholarship Recipient #AoIR2022 – Marcela I. Huilcán Herrera

Each year a small portion of AoIR conference fees go toward several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their research interests.

Who are you?
My name is Marcela I. Huilcán Herrera. I am a PhD candidate in the field of Linguistics and Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University and the University of Groningen. twitter @marhuilcan

What is your background?
I am a Mapuche woman born and raised in what we know today as Chile. I did my undergraduate studies in Linguistics and Literature at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 2018 I moved to the Netherlands, where I followed a master’s programme in Multilingualism at the University of Groningen. Two years later I started my PhD, a cotutelle programme, at two institutions: the University of Groningen and Macquarie University.

What is your current area of study?
My field of study is in sociolinguistics. In my PhD research, I am looking into language attitudes and ideologies of Indigenous language speakers regarding the role of digital technologies in the context of language revitalisation and reclamation. I am looking particularly into the perspectives of Indigenous communities in central-south Chile and New South Wales, Australia.

Describe the research you will present at #AoIR2022.
During the Doctoral Colloquium at AoIR2022, I will present my PhD project titled “Indigenous languages in the digital world: An analysis of the language attitudes and ideologies of Indigenous language speakers about the role of digital technologies in language revitalisation”. The communities taking part in this study are Aboriginal language speakers from the New South Wales area and Indigenous language speakers located in the central- south area of Chile. Both areas were severely affected by early colonisation encounters and correspond to linguistic areas that have been understudied in the sociolinguistic field.

This research project looks into the underlying language attitudes and ideologies in the tripartite dynamic: language, technology, and language reclamation. Following a mixed methods approach I analyse the data provided by around 100 participants who volunteered their time to fill out a pre-and post-survey mediated by the use of a collaborative online app to document Indigenous languages (designed to be used in this study), and then take part in in-depth interviews.

Preliminary observations indicate the presence of complex perspectives that manifest questions about what digital technologies and the online world can represent for Indigenous communities. The digital world and its tools might offer a new domain of use and therefore contribute to language work. However, simultaneously questions arise about this world as a true bearer of Indigenous knowledge.

This study is highly relevant to evaluate how appropriate, accepted and useful the use of
Indigenous languages in digital spaces is to their communities of speakers. Assessing the
role of such digital technologies in the revitalisation of these languages might contribute to future developments in the digital world that are instrumental to the communities and that favour self-determination in the linguistic-digital sphere. This project seeks to support Indigenous communities in their language revitalisation and reclamation processes by contributing to finding paths towards decolonising the digital world. Not only giving visibility to Indigenous languages in online settings but also creating a safe space for communities to share their language knowledge according to their own protocols and wishes.

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2022 Dublin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference? What do you expect from it?
This is the first time that I will attend AoIR and the first time that I will take part in the Doctoral Colloquium. I am looking forward to presenting my research and bringing the perspectives of Indigenous communities from the territories known today as Australia and Chile to this event in which decolonial perspectives are brought to the table. I am truly happy to have the opportunity to bring my perspectives as a Mapuche sociolinguist/researcher and learn from the wonderful researchers that will attend as well.