Stephanie Fielding interviewed on WNPR
Mohegan is a Native American language once spoken in Connecticut. Its last speaker, Fidelia Fielding, was Stephanie’s great-great-great aunt. As Stephanie recounts in her interview, the Mohegan language gradually became extinct as schools forbade Mohegan students from speaking the language. Not wanting their children to undergo the experience of being denied their native language, Fidelia’s parents did not teach her to speak Mohegan. Instead, Fidelia and a group of peers learned the language secretly from her grandmother. After Fidelia’s death, her notes on Mohegan, the last descriptive records of the language, were destroyed in a fire.
With support from the Mohegan Tribe, Stephanie’s work focuses on recovering the grammar and vocabulary of the language despite the destruction of Fidelia’s notes. This is done in part by studying historical documents, which often contain Mohegan words, as well as by studying Mohegan words and phrases borrowed into the varieties of English spoken by modern Mohegans. In addition, Stephanie uses reconstructed words from Mohegan’s ancestor language, proto-Algonquian, to deduce what their Mohegan counterparts might have looked like. In 2006, Stephanie published A Modern Mohegan Dictionary. She also launched the Mohegan Language Project, a website with learning materials for Mohegan.
Stephanie was awarded the Yale Presidential Visiting Fellowship for the 2017–2018 academic year. This prestigious award, part of the Initiative for Faculty Excellence and Diversity, recognizes “approximately 10 exceptional scholars and practitioners who contribute to inclusive excellence.” As part of her fellowship, Stephanie will be joining the Department of Linguistics as a lecturer. She will be teaching courses on Mohegan and language revitalization.
Stephanie’s full interview is available on the WNPR website.