Research on T̛aat̛aaqsapa goes
back to the
18th C. and first contact with Nuuchahnulth people. There are a number
of wordlists collected by both English and Spanish visitors to
Vancouver Island from this period. In the following century there are a
few studies, including one relatively good, although linguistically
naive, one by Knipe (1868). Boas (1893) is the first linguistically
sophisticated description, although only a sketch.
It is not until the 20th c. that we see
linguistically aware studies of the language, beginning with Edward
Sapir's fieldwork from 1910-1914 and the subsequent materials sent to
Sapir by his consultants Alex Thomas and Hamilton George. This
collection is extensive in terms of size and coverage and is the best
early study of the language at a time when it was widely spoken. These
fieldnotes were originally deposited in the Canadian Museum of
Civilization. After Sapir's death in 1939 much
material was waylaid and reappeared only in the 1970's, and was then
in the archives of the American Philosophical Society, where it has
since. Another collection of materials gathered for Sapir by others
in the archives of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Sapir's work resulted in the publication of
of texts (Sapir & Swadesh 1939, 1955) with his student, Morris
Swadesh. Both volumes are long out of print and difficult to find.
Following on this work, there has been additional research by a number
of people, as outlined in the bibliography.
has been working on this material for the past 20+ years, beginning
with fieldwork on the closely related Ditidaht language. Focus was
shifted to Sapir's work in the late 1980s and has continued until the
present. The ultimate goal is to provide a complete
which cover the gamut of Nuuchahnulth culture and history, a
of the phonetics and phonology, and a grammar and dictionary of the
Work has consisted of assembling
and collation of the textual material which
existed only in manuscript form in various locations in North America.
to this is the task of inputting the data into the computer in order to
easily work with it. One of the major hurdles to be overcome at this
stage was the complex nature of the manuscript materials with which the
is concerned. Much of this material, in fact the majority, is in
form from more than a single source, some of it partially obscured by
or damage, and it requires a significant amount of expertise to
certain parts of the material. Once the material is in machine readable
form various techniques, computational and other, are employed to
edit it online. Work at this stage requires knowledge of the
language as well as editorial skills. Naturally this presents a problem
to the paucity of specialists familiar with the language. The results
this stage was then organised in a form suitable for publication,
and presently constitutes the largest corpus of data on the
language and, perhaps, on any Native American language to date.