Project Name: Lazuri Talking Child Stories
Grantee: Peri Ozlem Yuksel-Sokmen
Discipline: Psychology, Training Area Human Development
Funding Cycle: 2014-2015
Project Status: In progress
About the Project
Lazuri Talking Child Stories illustrates a digital collection of two picture book stories for preschool children, developed in collaboration with Susan Wei (illustrator), Irfan Çağatay (editor), and native Lazuri voices (sound files in two Lazuri dialects of Fındıklı and Ardaşen, Rize-Turkey). Lazuri (aka Laz) belongs to the Southwest Caucasian languages spoken by approximately 22,000 native speakers in Turkey and Georgia and is “definitely endangered” since parents have stopped teaching their mother tongue to their children due to rapid language shift into Turkish (UNESCO, 2003). Many oral languages were kept alive for thousands of years through the practice of storytelling, however, grandparents in Laz communities have stopped telling stories to their grandchildren in their mother tongue and the community is experiencing both, language loss and the loss of unique traditional knowledge. Building on this cultural tradition, we have developed “talking stories” using a fairly new invention—the Lazuri alphabet (Lazoglu & Feuerstein, 1984) to promote language use and early literacy skills. As access to the internet is becoming more pervasive around the world, this digital project is a critical contribution to the revitalization movement of endangered languages. Lazuri Talking Child Stories is a pedagogical tool that demonstrates linguistic diversity and fosters a hybrid environment for language learning and teaching.
Peri Ozlem Yuksel-Sokmen joined the Ph.D. Program in Developmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center in 2010 after receiving her BA from CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. She is a teaching and research fellow at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and her research focuses on Early Language Development among Lazi Children. As a native speaker of Lazuri she has conducted field work in the provinces of Rize and Artvin, along the East Black Sea coast of Turkey where a mountain of tongues still await her.