Vol. 9 (2015)


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On Training in Language Documentation and Capacity Building in Papua New Guinea: A Response to Bird et al.
Joseph D. Brooks, pp. 1–9

In a recent article, Bird et al. (2013) discuss a workshop held at the University of Goroka in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2012. The workshop was intended to offer a new methodological framework for language documentation and capacity building that streamlines the documentation process and accelerates the global effort to document endangered languages through machine translation and automated glossing technology developed by computer scientists. As a volunteer staff member at the workshop, in this response to Bird et al. I suggest that it did not in the end provide us with a model that should be replicated in the future. I explain how its failure to uphold fundamental commitments from a documentary linguistic and humanistic perspective can help inform future workshops and large-scale documentary efforts in PNG. Instead of experimenting with technological shortcuts that aim to reduce the role of linguists in language documentation and that construct participants as sources of data, we should implement training workshops geared toward the interests and skills of local participants who are interested in documenting their languages, and focus on building meaningful partnerships with academic institutions in PNG.

Documentary Linguistics and Computational Linguistics: A response to Brooks
Steven Bird, David Chiang, Friedel Frowein, Florian Hanke & Ashish Vaswani, pp. 10–11

Collaborative Documentation and Revitalization of Cherokee Tone
Dylan Herrick, Marcellino Berardo, Durbin Feeling, Tracy Hirata-Edds & Lizette Peter, pp. 12–31

Cherokee, the sole member of the southern branch of Iroquoian languages, is a severely endangered language. Unlike other members of the Iroquoian family, Cherokee has lexical tone. Community members are concerned about the potential loss of their language, and both speakers and teachers comment on the difficulty that language learners have with tone. This paper provides a brief overview of Cherokee tone and describes the techniques, activities, and results from a collaborative project aimed at building greater linguistic capacity within the Cherokee community. Team members from Cherokee Nation, the University of Kansas, and the University of Oklahoma led a series of workshops designed to train speakers, teachers, and advanced language learners to recognize, describe, and teach tone and how to use this information to document Cherokee. Following a participatory approach to endangered language revitalization and training native speakers and second language users in techniques of linguistic documentation adds to the knowledge-base of the community and allows for the documentation process to proceed from a Cherokee perspective rather than a purely academic/linguistic one. This capacity-building aspect of the project could serve as a model for future collaborations between linguists, teachers, and speakers in other communities with endangered languages.

May Sasabihin ang Kabataan ‘The Youth Have Something to Say’: Youth perspectives on language shift and linguistic identity
Emerson Lopez Odango, pp. 32–58

This position paper brings youth perspectives to the forefront of academic discourse about language shift and linguistic identity, framed in the larger intersecting conversations about language endangerment, maintenance and revitalization, the breakdown and rebuilding of intergenerational transmission, and the changing late modern landscapes in which youth linguistic identities emerge. At the core of this paper is the question, “What can be done about language shift?” My contribution to the answers is a call for further integration of youth perspectives into these academic discourses, most especially (but not exclusively) perspectives written by young scholars who are speaker-members of communities in which language shift is occurring. Such integration allows us to gain nuanced understandings of youth perceptions about language shift in their communities, the effects on their linguistic identities, and their motivations for reclaiming (or letting go of) their ancestral/heritage languages. This is a work in which I overtly take professional and personal stances, drawing upon my own experiences as a member of a Filipino diaspora in which language shift is currently taking place.


Itong kasulatang ito ay nagbibigay diin sa perspektibo ng kabataan dito sa pagtalakay ng pang-akademya tungkol sa paglilipat ng wika sa isang henerasyon at sa susunod na henerasyon at tungkol sa pagkakakilanlan ng wika. Nilalagay ko itong kasulatang ito sa loob ng mga mas malalaking pagtalakay ng pang-akademya tungkol sa pagkawala ng wika sa buong daigdig, sa pagpapanatili at pagbabagong-sibol, sa pagkasira at muling pagtataguyod ng pagpapadala ng wika’t kultura sa isang henerasyon at sa susunod na henerasyon, at sa pagbabago ng kalagayan ng makabagong daigdig na doon lumalabas ang mga pagkakakilanlan ng wika ng mga kabataan. Nasa pinakapuno ng kasulatan ko ang tanong na, “Ano kaya ang puwedeng gawin tungkol sa paglilipat ng wika sa susunod na mga henerasyon?” Ang sagot ko ay isang anunsyo na dapat magkaroon ng mas maraming pagsasama-sama ng perspektibo ng mga kabataan sa pagtalakay ng pang-akademya, lalo na (subali’t hindi eksklusibo) ang mga perspektibong isinulat ng mga batang mag-aaral na sila ay kasapi ng sambayanan na ito ay may paglilipat ng wika, at itong mga mag-aaral na ito ay marunong magsalita ng wika ng sambayanan (o kaya naiintindihan nila ang wika). Sa pagkakasama-sama nito, magiging mas malalim ang pagka-unawa natin tungkol sa pang-unawa ng mga kabataan tungkol sa paglilipat ng wika sa mga sambayanan nila, tungkol sa kalalabsan ng mga pagkakakilanlan nila tungkol sa wika, at tungkol sa pagganyak nila kung bakit gusto nilang ibalik sa mabuting kalagayan (o kaya’y pawalain) ang mga minamana nilang wika. Ginagamit ko ang mga paninindigang propesyonal at pansarili sa kasulatang ito; ginagamit ko ang aking mga karanasan, dahil ako ay kasapi ng sambayanan ng Pinoy na wala sa Pilipinas, at nagbabago ang aming mga wika.

‘Lone Wolves’ and Collaboration: A Reply to Crippen & Robinson (2013)
Claire Bowern & Natasha Warner, pp. 59–85

In this reply to Crippen & Robinson’s (2013) contribution to Language Documentation & Conservation, we discuss recent perspectives on ‘collaborative’ linguistics and the many roles that linguists play in language communities. We question Crippen & Robinson’s characterization of the state of the field and their conclusions regarding the utility of collaborative fieldwork. We argue that their characterization of collaborative fieldwork is unrealistic and their complaints are based on a caricature of what linguists actually do when they work together with communities. We also question their emphasis on the ‘outsider’ linguist going into a community, given the increasing number of indigenous scholars working on their own languages and partnering with ‘outsider’ academics. We outline ways in which collaborative work does not compromise theoretical scholarship. Both collaborative and so-called ‘lone wolf’ approaches bring advantages and disadvantages to the linguist, but lone wolf linguistics can have considerable disadvantages to communities who are already excluded from research. Documentary linguists, as representatives of their profession, should make use of the most effective techniques they can, given that in many cases, that linguist’s work may well be the only lasting record of the language.

Collaboration: A Reply to Bowern & Warner’s Reply
Laura Robinson & James Crippen, pp. 86–88

Tools for Analyzing Verbal Art in the Field
Myfany Turpin & Lana Henderson, pp. 89–109

Song is a universal human phenomenon that can shed much light on the nature of language. Despite this, field linguists are not always equipped with the knowledge and skills to analyze song texts and draw out their significances to other areas of language. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a language community to ask linguists working in the field to record and document their songs. Barwick (2012) identifies a number of reasons why linguists should work on songs and identifies iTunes as a local repository for recordings of songs. This paper expands on these reasons and describes how iTunes software can be used for comparing, retrieving and managing recordings of songs. This not only assists analysis of song structure and text, but is also a useful means of providing the community with recordings, even in the absence of a local repository. The paper draws on our use of iTunes during fieldwork on central Australian Aboriginal songs. Our aim is to share the methodology and workflow we use and to encourage linguists to work on this universal, yet often neglected, aspect of language that is often highly valued within the language community.

State-of-the-Art in the Development of the Lokono Language
Konrad Rybka, pp. 110–133

Lokono is a critically endangered Northern Arawakan language spoken in the peri-coastal areas of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana). Today, in every Lokono village there remains only a small number of elderly native speakers. However, in spite of the ongoing language loss, across the three Guianas as well as in the Netherlands, where a number of expatriate Lokono live, language awareness is increasing and measures are being taken to develop the language. This paper employs the UNESCO’s language vitality framework to assess the Lokono situation. I give particular attention to the state-of-the-art in language development activities, including language documentation. The aim of this paper is to provide the readers with an updated picture of the Lokono sociolinguistic context in order to facilitate future work between the Lokono and the academic community.

Designing a Dictionary for an Endangered Language Community: Lexicographical Deliberations, Language Ideological Clarifications
Paul V. Kroskrity, pp. 140–157

Dictionaries of endangered languages represent especially important products of language documentation, in part because they are usually the most familiar and useful genre of linguistic representation to endangered language community members. This familiarity, however, can become problematic when it is accompanied by language ideologies that equate dictionaries with word lists (‘words for things’), prescriptive linguistics, and researchers’ neoliberal assumptions regarding the circulation of knowledge. Recent and ongoing research in the Village of Tewa (N. Arizona, Kiowa-Tanoan language family) designed to produce a practical dictionary in support of the community’s language renewal efforts provides some examples of the need to contextualize the project within the community and to understand the pervasive role of language ideologies when working collaboratively. This research project aims to promote and fortify lexical documentation so that the practical dictionary is an adequate guide for future community members, while still conforming to cultural protocols about lexical representation and circulation, both within and outside the language community.

Assessing the Linguistic Vitality of Miqie: An Endangered Ngwi (Loloish) Language of Yunnan, China
Katie B. Gao, pp. 164–191

Language shift is the process by which a speech community in a contact situation gradually abandons one language in favor of another. Because the causal factors of language shift are largely social (Fishman 1991), languages, groups, and communities with diverse social situations can be expected to exhibit varying levels of language shift. This paper reports on the linguistic vitality of Miqie [ISO 639-3:yiq], an endangered Central Ngwi/Yi language of Yunnan, China, and identifies the social factors contributing to language shift. Findings from participant interviews in 11 village survey points show there are varying degrees of language endangerment, with intermarriage and access to a major road as primary indicators of shift. This paper evaluates different tools for assessing linguistic vitality and uses the Language Endangerment Index (Lee & Van Way in press) to assess Miqie language endangerment at the village level. Language shift information is essential in the description and documentation of a language, especially because the contexts in which the language is spoken may disappear faster than the language itself.

Final Records of the Sambe Language of Central Nigeria: Phonology, Noun Morphology, and Wordlist
Roger Blench, pp. 192–228

This paper presents all the available data on the Sambe language [xab], formerly spoken in a remote area of Central Nigeria. Two field trips were made, in 2001 and 2005, and a substantial wordlist was collected. By 2005, the two remaining informants were very old and it is presumed Sambe is no longer spoken. The speakers still retain their ethnic identity but today speak a dialect of Ninzo. Sambe is part of the little-known Alumic group of languages and its closest relative is Hasha. Alumic in turn is one subgroup of Plateau, itself a branch of Benue-Congo and thus part of Niger-Congo. Sambe has an extremely rich phonological inventory. Fossil prefixes show that it had a system of nominal affixing until recently, but this had become unproductive by the time the language was recorded.

A Guide to the Ikaan Language and Culture Documentation
Sophie Salffner, pp. 237–267

Language documentation collections contain valuable and unique resources on the languages and cultures of the people represented in the collection. To allow users to understand and use one particular collection, this article provides a guide to the language documentation project “Farming, food and yam: language and cultural practices among Ikaan speakers,” deposited in the Endangered Languages Archive. It gives a bird’s eye view of the collection, showing the project background, the conventions and workflows, and the structure and content of the resources. In addition, it provides a glimpse behind the scene, outlining motivations, observations, thoughts on the collection, and future plans. This article thus contextualizes the collection by placing it in its wider research and community context.

Ownership and language change in Mutsun revival
Lajos Szoboszlai, pp. 268–291

Language change in the context of the revitalization of Native American languages merits further study. Sources of change have been traced to attrition in the language production of the last speakers, to problematic documentation, and to relearning strategies. This paper explores change at the relearning stage of revitalization in a case study of a Mutsun tribal member learning his language. Mutsun is a Costanoan language of coastal central California belonging to the Yok-Utian family. Analyses of psychological and intellectual mechanisms driving language change during relearning remain scant in the literature. This paper posits the sense of ownership as a factor enabling language change through the learning process. The Mutsun learner’s sense of ownership is the driving force behind language change in this case study of Mutsun language revival. Data supporting this assertion include decisions made by the learner about language form, function, and usage. I propose that these decisions are evidence of a sense of linguistic ownership and political ownership felt by the learner and that these license language change.

Language Research and Revitalization Through a Community-University Partnership: The Mi’gmaq Research Partnership
Carol-Rose Little, Travis Wysote, Elise McClay & Jessica Coon, pp. 292–306

This paper discusses a collaboration between a university linguistics department and an Indigenous community, with the joint aim to increase the vitality of, and knowledge about, Mi’gmaq (Eastern Algonquian). It describes the history of the language in the community and how the partnership was initially formed. It discusses several joint initiatives: the development of digital language-learning resources, a class curriculum, and the hosting of an intergenerational open language workshop in the community. The authors share the models of work and lessons that have influenced them as this partnership has grown.

Getting in Touch: Language and Digital Inclusion in Australian Indigenous Communities
Margaret Carew, Jennifer Green, Inge Kral, Rachel Nordlinger & Ruth Singer, pp. 307–323

Indigenous people in remote Australia face many dilemmas in relation to the status and vitality of their languages and communication ecologies. Cultural leaders want to maintain endangered heritage languages, yet this concern is balanced against an awareness that English competency is a necessary life skill. Remote Indigenous groups must also negotiate the effect of globalized media on language and cultural practices. While public policy seeks to bridge the digital divide in remote Australia, little attention has been paid to the dominance of English in the new digital environment and the potential impact that increased English language activities may have on endangered Indigenous languages. In this paper we discuss the Getting in Touch project, a joint initiative between linguists, Australian Indigenous language speakers, and software developers. Using a participatory, collaborative process, the project aims to develop ideas for digital resources that privilege Indigenous languages and knowledge systems. We argue that taking Indigenous languages into account in app design may help enhance digital literacies in remote Indigenous communities and promote digital inclusion.

Southern Ute Grassroots Language Revitalization
Stacey Oberly, Dedra White, Arlene Millich, Mary Inez Cloud, Lillian Seibel, Crystal Ivey & Lorelei Cloud, pp. 324–343

Southern Ute is a severely endangered Uto-Aztecan language spoken in southwestern Colorado by forty speakers out of a tribe of around 1,400. In 2011, a small group of adult tribal members with a strong desire to learn Ute as a second language began a collaborative, community-based, grassroots language revitalization and repatriation project on the Southern Ute reservation. This case study provides insight into language endangerment and revitalization, language ideologies, linguistic identity, revitalization pedagogy, and language as power.

During this project the group encountered challenges typical of endangered language revitalization such as lack of teaching material, the contradictory role of writing in gaining fluency in an endangered language, the transition of a speaker to a teacher, and differing views of effective language learning methods. A total of eighty-nine community members ranging in age from two to eighty-seven years participated in this project. The diversity of students created a pedagogical situation in which the range of objectives, learning styles, and interest levels required adaptation and flexibility. We discuss possible solutions to these challenges. We also provide insight into the tenacity of heritage language learners who continue to fight for linguistic self-determination and justice, even when faced with opposition from their tribal government and community.

Book Reviews

The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork, by Nicholas Thieberger (ed.)
Reviewed by Andrew Pawley, pp. 134–139

The Marshallese-English Online Dictionary, by Takaji Abo, Bryron W. Bender, Alfred Capelle & Tony DeBrum
Reviewed by J. Albert Bickford, pp. 158–163

Repertoires and Choices in African Languages, by Friederike Lüpke & Anne Storch
Reviewed by G. Tucker Childs, pp. 229–236

Endangered languages and new technologies, by Mari C. Jones
Reviewed by Daniel W. Hieber, pp. 344–250