Vol. 11 (2017)


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LD&C 10th Anniversary Articles

LD&C possibilities for the next decade
Nick Thieberger, pp. 1–4

The Founding of Language Documentation & Conservation
Kenneth L. Rehg, pp. 5–9


Language Vitality among the Mako Communities of the Ventuari River
Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada, pp. 10–48

Mako [ISO 639-3: wpc], a Sáliban language spoken along the Ventuari River in the Venezuelan Amazon, has been variably reported as (critically) endangered and threatened. These reports, however, are based on second-hand information and/or self-reported census data. In this article, I present a vitality assessment of Mako that relies on first-hand fieldwork data from 20 communities in the Middle Ventuari River area. The analysis of the data – collected through interviews, community censuses, and participant observation between 2012 and 2014 – shows that the situation is not as dire as previously reported and that the language is very vital in its local context. I also show that the place of Mako in the regional and national contexts put it in a vulnerable position and that steps should be taken to ensure its presence in new domains of use. Methodologically, I show the importance – and argue in favor – of including data from long-term participant observation in analyses and reports of linguistic vitality because of the access this methodology provides to tacit knowledge about language use and attitudes. This work thus contributes both to our understanding of language vitality among the Mako communities and to discussions of best practices in language vitality assessments.

Earbuds: A Method for Analyzing Nasality in the Field
Jesse Stewart & Martin Kohlberger, pp. 49–80

Existing methods for collecting and analyzing nasality data are problematic for linguistic fieldworkers: aerodynamic equipment can be expensive and difficult to transport, and acoustic analyses require large amounts of optimally-recorded data. In this paper, a highly mobile and low-cost method is proposed. By connecting low impedance earbuds into a microphone jack of a recording device and placing one earbud immediately below one nostril while keeping the other earbud by the mouth, it is possible to capture the relative intensity of sound exiting the nasal and oral cavities. The two channels can then be normalized to assess the relative prominence of nasality and orality in a given speech sound. This method can not only be used to establish whether nasality is present in a speech signal, but it can also provide information about the timing and duration of nasal gestures. As such, it is an ideal tool for collecting high-quality nasality data in the field.

Some principles for language names
Martin Haspelmath, pp. 81–93

Linguists are sometimes confronted with choices concerning language names. For example, one and the same language may be referred to as Persian or Farsi. This short paper discusses some principles that one might use for making decisions when there are variant forms in use, or when one feels that none of the existing names is appropriate. The principles discussed here arose from work on Glottolog, an English-language database of the world’s languages (Glottolog.org), where each language has a single primary English name (though variant forms are of course included), and where the goal is to choose the best variant form as the primary name of the language. Whenever the question arises which variant name form to choose, the Glottolog editors are guided by these principles, so they are formulated in a prescriptive way, but with explanation and justification for each principle. It seems that the general issue is also quite important for language documenters, because the names of non-major languages are often not fully established yet, and naming decisions have to be made.

The IATH ELAN Text-Sync Tool: A Simple System for Mobilizing ELAN Transcripts On- or Off-Line
Lise M. Dobrin & Douglas Ross, pp. 94–102

In this article we present the IATH ELAN Text-Sync Tool (ETST; see http://community.village.virginia.edu/etst), a series of scripts and workflow for playing ELAN files and associated audiovisual media in a web browser either on- or off-line. ELAN has become an indispensable part of documentary linguists’ toolkit, but it is less than ideal for mobilizing the transcribed media it allows linguists to create when they have reason to display these materials in non-research settings where linguists are not the primary audience. In conjunction with display of a video or audio file, ETST plays tiers of transcript for overlapping speech, along with optional glosses, and distinguishes speakers with participant codes. Using ETST requires no programming knowledge, but with some such knowledge the tool can be readily customized to suit users’ needs. To that extent, ETST is a simple browser-based transcript player that can be used either as is, “out of the box”, or as a basis for further development. We hope that ETST will be a helpful addition to documentary linguists’ repertoire of digital tools, making it easier for them to share materials with all those who have a stake in their research.

Toward a linguistically realistic assessment of language vitality: The case of Jejueo
Changyong Yang, William O’Grady & Sejung Yang, pp. 103–113

The assessment of language endangerment requires accurate estimates of speaker populations, including information about the proficiency of different groups within those populations. Typically, this information is based on self-assessments, a methodology whose reliability is open to question. We outline an approach that seeks to improve the accuracy of self-assessment by exposing participants to a simple linguistic task before they render their judgments. The viability of the approach is evaluated with the help of a case study involving 81 partial speakers of Jejueo, a critically endangered Koreanic language.