Vol. 12 (2018)

 

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Articles

The endangered state of Negidal: A field report
Brigitte Pakendorf & Natalia Aralova, pp. 1-14

Negidal is a Northern Tungusic language closely related to Evenki with two recognized dialects, Upper and Lower Negidal. This nearly extinct language used to be spoken in the Lower Amur region of the Russian Far East by people whose traditional way of life was based on fishing and hunting. While the number of remaining active speakers of Upper Negidal was more or less known, the current state of Lower Negidal was still uncertain. We here report on a trip to ascertain the state of Lower Negidal and give a precise assessment of the linguistic situation of both dialects. While the Upper dialect is still represented by seven elderly female speakers, varying in proficiency from fully fluent to barely able to produce a narrative, not a single active speaker of Lower Negidal is left. The language will therefore probably be extinct in the next decade or two.

Orthography development for Darma (The case that wasn’t)
Christina Willis Oko, pp. 15–46

As the discipline of language documentation and description evolves, so do the expectations placed on researchers. Current trends emphasize collaborative efforts that prioritize tangible contributions to the community, such as a pedagogical grammar, dictionary, or collection of texts. Some argue that for unwritten languages orthography development is imperative so that materials prepared by the researcher (perhaps in collaboration with the community) are accessible to speakers. In light of the current discussions of methodology and ethical issues related to endeavors to document and describe the world’s languages, this paper explores the challenges faced by a single researcher (the author) working on a single language (Darma) within a multilingual setting (in India). This project emphasizes ethnographic and discourse-centered research methodologies which reveal language ideologies that are discussed here to demonstrate that while orthography development is a reasonable objective in many cases, one must be sensitive to a variety of interconnecting issues including history, social relationships, language ideology, and local politics associated with writing and education. While orthography development has not been a viable option in the Darma Documentation and Description Project, it is nevertheless a matter that needs to be addressed for the benefit of the community as well as ongoing discussions of methodology and best practices in linguistic and anthropological research.

Review of Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology (Studies in Diversity Linguistics 13)
Maria Konoshenko, pp. 47–52

Contact languages around the world and their levels of endangerment
Nala H. Lee, pp. 53–79

This paper provides an up-to-date report on the vitality or endangerment status of contact languages around the world, including pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages. By utilizing information featured in the Endangered Languages Project and the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Languages online portals, 96 contact languages are assessed on the Language Endangerment Index, a method of assessment that is based on four factors including intergenerational transmission, absolute number of speakers, speaker number trends, and domains of use. Results show that the contact languages are most at risk with respect to intergenerational transmission and domains of use. This is explained by the social and historical nature of contact languages. Overall results further raise the concern that the proportion of pidgins, creoles and mixed languages at some level of risk is extremely high. Reasons are provided for why linguists should be concerned about the endangerment of these languages.

Forced Alignment for Understudied Language Varieties: Testing Prosodylab-Aligner with Tongan Data
Lisa M. Johnson, Marianna Di Paolo & Adrian Bell, pp. 80–123

Automated alignment of transcriptions to audio files expedites the process of preparing data for acoustic analysis. Unfortunately, the benefits of auto-alignment have generally been available only to researchers studying majority languages, for which large corpora exist and for which acoustic models have been created by large-scale research projects. Prosodylab-Aligner (PL-A), from McGill University, facilitates automated alignment and segmentation for understudied languages. It allows researchers to train acoustic models using the same audio files for which alignments will be created. Those models can then be used to create time-aligned Praat TextGrids with word and phone boundaries marked.

For the benefit of others who wish to use PL-A for research projects, this paper reports on our use of PL-A on Tongan field recordings, reviewing the software, outlining required steps, and providing tips. Since field recordings often contain more background noise than the laboratory recordings for which PL-A was designed, the paper also discusses the relative benefits of removing background noise for both training and alignment purposes. Finally, it compares acoustic measures based on various alignments and compares boundary placements with those of human aligners, demonstrating that automated alignment is both feasible and less time-consuming than manual alignment.

Kratylos: A tool for sharing interlinearized and lexical data in diverse formats
Daniel Kaufman & Raphael Finkel, pp. 124–146

In this paper we present Kratylos, at www.kratylos.org, a web application that creates searchable multimedia corpora from data collections in diverse formats, including collections of interlinearized glossed text (IGT) and dictionaries. There exists a crucial lacuna in the electronic ecology that supports language documentation and linguistic research. Vast amounts of IGT are produced in stand-alone programs without an easy way to share them publicly as dynamic databases. Solving this problem will not only unlock an enormous amount of linguistic information that can be shared easily across the web, it will also improve accountability by allowing us to verify analyses across collections of primary data. We argue for a two-pronged approach to sharing language documentation, which involves a popular interface and a specialist interface. Finally, we briefly introduce the potential of regular expression queries for syntactic research.

Single-event Rapid Word Collection workshops: Efficient, effective, empowering
Brenda H. Boerger & Verna Stutzman, pp. 147–193

In this paper we describe single-event Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop results in 12 languages, and compare these results to fieldwork lexicons collected by other means. We show that this methodology of collecting words by semantic domain by community engagement leads to obtaining more words in less time than conventional collection methods. Factors contributing to high and low net word senses are summarized, addressed, and suggestions given for increasing effectiveness of the RWC procedures. Relevant points are illustrated in detail using a 2015 Natügu [ntu] RWC workshop in the Solomon Islands. We conclude that the advantages of the single-event RWC workshop strategy warrant recommending it as best practice in lexicographic fieldwork for minority languages.

Review of Lakota Grammar Handbook : a pedagogically orientated self-study reference and practice book for beginner to upper-intermediate students
Bruce Ingham, pp. 194–203

A Guide to the Syuba (Kagate) Language Documentation Corpus
Lauren Gawne, pp. 204-234

This article provides an overview of the collection “Kagate (Syuba)”, archived with both the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) and the Endangered Language Archive (ELAR). It provides an overview of the materials that have been archived, as well as details of the workflow, conventions used, and structure of the collection. It also provides context for the content of the collection, including an overview of the language context, and some of the motivations behind the documentation project. This article thus provides an entry point to the collection. The future plans for the collection – from the perspectives of both the researcher and Syuba speakers – are also outlined, but with the overwhelming majority of items in the collection available to others, it is hoped that this article will encourage use of the materials by other researchers.