TC Alumna Develops EEG Lab to Study Indigenous Language Learning

April 10, 2019

Teachers College  alumna Dayna Moya  (PhD’17) is working at Chile’s Universidad Católica’s Villarrica Campus to develop an electroencephalogram (EEG) laboratory to study language and education, with a focus on Mapudungun – the tongue of the indigenous Mapuche people.

The TC’s Neurocognition of Language Lab,  under the leadership of Theoretical Linguistics PhD Karen Froud, with whom Dayna did her doctoral studies, will provide a high-density EEG amplifier to begin this research. Other areas of cooperation with Columbia University may include future exchange programs with students and faculty, or  working directly with Froud to continue her and Speech and Language Pathology PhD Reem Khamis-Dakwar’s  research to study Mapudungun in the context of diglossia (a situation in which two languages --or two varieties of the same language-- are used under different conditions within a community, often by the same speakers)

While the lab in Chile is still in the planning stage, project implementation is expected to take place 2019. In the lab, the EEG would be employed for researchers to study how Mapudungun is learned as a second language, in order to then facilitate the language learning process.

“This is a marvelous opportunity to research a language that may be in jeopardy of extinction. If we can find out how to study Mapudungun more easily and more quickly, that can help more people to learn the language,” says Moya, who was raised in the southern city of Temuco, in a region that has Chile’s highest concentration of Mapuche people.

The idea is not just for Mapuche people to learn the language, but for it to be more commonplace throughout the country  --taught in schools, for example-- to honor and preserve Chile’s indigenous culture, she notes.

The lab --named Longkontukun Dungu, loosely translated from Mapudungun to “What happens in the head relative to language”-- is to be located at Universidad Católica’s Villarrica Campus, with Moya as the head researcher.