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Chirila: Contemporary and Historical Resources for the Indigenous Languages of Australia
Claire Bowern, pp. 1–44
Here I present the background to, and a description of, a newly developed database of historical and contemporary lexical data for Australian languages (Chirila), concentrating on the Pama-Nyungan family (the largest family in the country). While the database was initially developed in order to facilitate research on cognate words and reconstructions, it has had many uses beyond its original purpose, in synchronic theoretical linguistics, language documentation, and language reclamation. Creating a multi-audience database of this type has been challenging, however. Some of the challenges stemmed from success: as the size of the database grew, the original data structure became unwieldy. Other challenges grew from the difficulties in anticipating future needs, in keeping track of materials, and in coping with diverse input formats for so many highly endangered languages.
In this paper I document the structure of the database, provide an overview of its uses (both in diachronic and synchronic research), and discuss some of the issues that have arisen during the project and choices that needed to be made as the database was created, compiled, curated, and shared. I address here the major problems that arise with linguistic data, particularly databases created for diverse audiences, from diverse data, with little infrastructure support.
Language Acquisition and Language Revitalization
William O’Grady & Ryoko Hattori, pp. 45–57
Intergenerational transmission, the ultimate goal of language revitalization efforts, can only be achieved by (re)establishing the conditions under which an imperiled language can be acquired by the community’s children. This paper presents a tutorial survey of several key points relating to language acquisition and maintenance in children, focusing on four matters that are of direct relevance to work on language revitalization.
Fieldwork Game Play: Masterminding Evidentiality in Desano
Wilson Silva & Scott AnderBois, pp. 58–76
In this paper, we propose a methodology for collecting naturally occurring data on evidentials and epistemic modals. We use Desano (Eastern Tukanoan) as a case study. This language has a complex evidential system with six evidential forms. The methodology in question consists of having Desano speakers to play a logic game, Mastermind. In this game one player (the codemaker) places colored pegs behind a screen and the other player (the codebreaker) tries to guess the code, receiving partial feedback from the codemaker through clues after each intermediate guess. In order to offset the unnaturalness of the codemaker’s exclusive knowledge of the actual code, we adapt the task to have two codebreakers playing the game jointly and discussing what they know, what the code could/must be, etc. We found that there are several benefits to this method. It provides naturalistic dialogue between multiple speakers, rather than just monologue; utterances naturally vary as to whether speakers in the scenario have access to and interest in what kind of information source the speaker has or simply the conclusion they draw from this information; finally, an important point is that speakers find the task enjoyable. We hope that this study can add the body of literature on methods for collecting naturalistic speech for language documentation and description.
Worlds of knowledge in Central Bhutan: Documentation of ’Olekha
Gwendolyn Hyslop, pp. 77–106
A re-emergence in language documentation has brought with it a recent recognition of the potential contributions which collaboration with other disciplines has to offer linguistics. For example, ten chapters of the recently published Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork (Thieberger 2012) were explicitly devoted to cross-discipline collaboration. Among the topics covered were ethnomathematics, geography, astronomy, biology, and ethnobotany.
Linguists who work in ethnobiology can make important observations about our interactions with the natural world, as has been persuasively argued by Si (2011).
In a separate publication, Si (2013) shows that the Solega people of southern India possess an unusually rich knowledge of honeybees and their practices, despite not being beekeepers. Of course, the importance of these sorts of studies has been noted outside of linguistics for some time. The current study has grown from discussions with a biologist for a collaborative project.
A discourse-based approach to the language documentation of local ecological knowledge
Emerson Lopez Odango, pp. 107–154
This paper proposes a discourse-based approach to the language documentation of local ecological knowledge (LEK). The knowledge, skills, beliefs, cultural worldviews, and ideologies that shape the way a community interacts with its environment can be examined through the discourse in which LEK emerges. ‘Discourse-based’ refers to two components: (1) the discovery and collection of LEK and its contexts through methods informed by the ethnography of communication, and (2) the analysis of speech that encodes LEK in the framework of Interactional Sociolinguistics. This discourse-based approach not only addresses the general need to accumulate more instances of speech (about LEK, or otherwise) in a documentary corpus, but also provides an analysis of the communicative event, one that sheds light on the dynamic nature of the content of that speech in the particular sociocultural context of that speech community, embedded in discursive moments. Fundamental to this approach is the need for collaboration across disciplines. This paper explores the links that can be made among the fields of language documentation, ethnobiology, and sociolinguistics.
Taropwe ie e aweenenei ia usun iaash sipwé weewetei iaan arames kile are aweewen mé aitiitan masawan leeset, fanéú, mé fáán lááng—ie arames re kai úró ‘local ecological knowledge (LEK)’—ngé iaash weewetei mi alóngólóng óón iaan arames apworaus, are ‘discourse.’ Llan eeu mé eeu kinikinin shóón sóópw kewe, iaar túmwúnú meet masawan leeset, óón fanéú, are fáán lááng mi kan alóngólóng óón iaar kile, iaar féfféér, iaar lúúk, iaar weewe, o pwal iaar awennam, iwe ngé simi toonganei weewetei fishi iaan shóón sóópw kewe kile mé féfféér kare saa longeetei fishi are aúsaleng fishi nganei iaar kewe apworaus. Ei sokkon aweewe e alóngólóng óón ruwou kinikin: (1) eeu kinikin ewe re kai úró ‘the ethnography of communication’ (weewen, sipwé longeetei fishi meet mi ffis lúpwan arames raa kan kakkapas are apworaus fangan), ei mi ossen lómwót nganei iaash kaié nganei peekin LEK; o pwal (2) eeu kinikin ewe re kai úró ‘Interactional Sociolinguistcs’ (weewen, eeu sokkon aweewe e alóngolóng óón iaash sipwé longeetei fishi ttishikin me iáián kapas llan iaan arames kewe apworaus, ei mi ossen lómwót nganei peekin LEK). Ekkei sokkon kaié aa kan alapaala iaash weewetei iaan arames apworaus (usun LEK pwal ekkewe apworaus mé likin LEK) o aa kan pwal alúkkapaala iaash aweewe unusalapen masowan iaan arames apworaus. Emi aushea iaash sipwé angaang fangan reen iaash sipwé toonganei weewetei ekké sokkon apworaus. Ei taropwe e aweewenei lekóshun ekkei kinikinikin peekin kaié: language documentation, ethnobiology, mé sociolinguistics.
Case Study: An Evaluation of Information and Communication Technology Use in Upriver Halq’eméylem Language Programs
Nicolle Bourget, pp. 165–187
Indigenous communities are using information and communications technology (ICT) to document languages and to support language maintenance and revitalization activities. Both critical funding and effort goes into the development, deployment, and maintenance of ICT; however, the effectiveness of ICT is not always clearly understood. This case study examines how ICT has been incorporated into Upriver Halq’eméylem language programs. Participants indicated that ICT is being used successfully as a supplementary tool in coordination with specific learning strategies and activities such as story-telling, games, and looking up a word or concept. However, they indicated that ICT is not being used outside of those specific learning activities. The study indicates that ICT can be a valuable tool in the effort to revitalize a language; however, the type of ICT and how it is integrated into the program and community need to be carefully planned out. A list of key findings is provided.
Mapmaking for Language Documentation and Description
Lauren Gawne & Hiram Ring, pp. 188–242
This paper introduces readers to mapmaking as part of language documentation. We discuss some of the benefits and ethical challenges in producing good maps, drawing on linguistic geography and GIS literature. We then describe current tools and practices that are useful when creating maps of linguistic data, particularly using locations of field sites to identify language areas/boundaries. We demonstrate a basic workflow that uses CartoDB, before demonstrating a more complex workflow involving Google Maps and TileMill. We also discuss presentation and archiving of mapping products. The majority of the tools identified and used are open source or free to use.
Collaboration or Participant Observation? Rethinking Models of ‘Linguistic Social Work’
Lise M. Dobrin & Saul Schwartz, pp. 253–277
Documentary linguists aspiring to conduct socially responsible research find themselves immersed in a literature on ‘collaborative methods’ that does not address some of the most pressing interpersonal challenges that fieldworkers experience in their community relationships. As recent controversies about the nature of collaboration indicate, collaborative models embed assumptions about reciprocity, negotiation, and the meaning and moral valence of categories like ‘research,’ ‘language,’ and ‘documentation,’ which do not translate equally well across all communities. There is thus a need for a method flexible enough to respond to the complexity and diversity of what goes on in particular cross-cultural researcher-community relationships. In this article, we encourage documentary linguists to consider the benefits of participant observation, a research method that is designed specifically to deal with the interpersonal nature of fieldwork in the human sciences. Because it ties knowledge production directly to the development of social relationships across difference, participant observation can help documentary linguists think fruitfully about the social approaches they take in their fieldwork, whether these ultimately come to involve formal collaboration or some other form of reciprocity.
Testing mutual intelligibility between closely related languages in an oral society
Charlotte Gooskens & Cindy Schneider, pp. 278–305
This paper describes a new methodology for testing intelligibility across closely related languages and dialects in a traditional oral society in Vanuatu. There are many reasons why it could be useful to establish how well speakers of related varieties can understand one another: such knowledge is relevant to language planning and policy making, and it can shed light on the dynamics of language contact. However, conventional approaches to intelligibility testing, such as ‘recorded text testing’ (Hickerton et al. 1952; Pierce 1952; Voegelin & Harris 1951), are time consuming to score, and difficult to implement consistently. In Europe, fast and efficient intelligibility testing has been successfully carried out across closely related varieties (cf. Vanhove 2014; Gooskens forthcoming; Schüppert & Gooskens 2011a, 2011b, inter alia). However, these methods assume that test subjects are literate and computer-savvy. The methodology discussed in the present paper adapts European methods to conventional ‘fieldwork’ conditions. In Vanuatu we piloted a picture task and a translation task. Although some words had to be removed from the final analysis, the experiment was successful overall and we anticipate that this method can be fruitfully applied in other oral language communities.
Ax toowú át wudikeen, my spirit soars: Tlingit direct acquisition and co-learning pilot project
Sʔímlaʔxw Michele K. Johnson, pp. 306–336
Many Indigenous languages, including Tlingit, are critically endangered and in urgent need of new adult speakers within the parent-aged generation. However, no consensus exists on language revitalization strategy, curricular design, lesson plans, assessment, or teaching methods. A small Tlingit cohort courageously developed and piloted a new curriculum and acquisition method by following a proven curricular design borrowed from an Interior Salish language, Nsyilxcn. This article introduces broad concepts such as the motivations behind language revitalization and quality immersion strategies for creating proficient speakers. It further describes recording techniques, the creation of sequenced curriculum designed for learners to raise each other up while teaching, and training learners to teach. It also presents a story of Tlingit language activism blended with Syilx language activism, specifically the direct acquisition method and its successful application by an adult cohort of beginner Tlingit learners.
Documenting Hawai‘i’s Sign Languages
Samantha Rarrick & Brittany Wilson, pp. 337–346
The Sign Language Documentation Training Center (SLDTC) offers workshops and linguistic training to users of threatened sign languages: currently American Sign Language (ASL) and Hawai‘i Sign Language (HSL). This project originated as a spin-off of the Language Documentation Training Center (LDTC), launched in 2004 by graduate students in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. In its third iteration, SLDTC has aimed to train users of threatened signed languages to document their own languages in ways that make the information useful for those interested in these languages. The SLDTC also aims to increase awareness of language endangerment and encourage signers to think critically about language revitalization, especially as it pertains to their own languages. The work has been rewarding, but not without its challenges, including technological and orthographic constraints, as well as the challenges of re-adapting spoken language materials for sign languages.
Why write in a language that (almost) no one can read? Twitter and the development of written literature
Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, pp. 356–393
The development of written literature in languages which are not usually written by their speakers can be confounded by a circular problem. Potential writers are reluctant or unmotivated to write in a language that no one can read. But at the same time, why learn to read a language for which there is nothing available to read? The writers wait for the readership, while the readers wait for material. In this paper I argue that Twitter can be used effectively to support burgeoning writers of languages for which no current readership exists by partnering writers with volunteer readers who do not need to know the target language. I lay out a model for this type of work that is an effective way for outside linguists and their students to support indigenous language activists.
The Value-Added Language Archive: Increasing Cultural Compatibility for Native American Communities
Michael Alvarez Shepard, pp.458–479
Language archives represent a complicated theoretical and practical site of convergence for Native American language communities. In this article, I explore how functionality and operation of language archives are misaligned with core sociopolitical priorities for Native American tribes. In particular, I consider how the concept of cultural and political self-determination contextualizes lack of use or resistance to participation in language archiving projects. In addition to critical evaluation, I envision a dramatically expanded role for language archives, with the goal of increasing their cultural and political compatibility for Native American groups and beyond. I use the term, ‘value-added language archive’ to describe an archive with features and support services that address emergent needs of a diverse stakeholder community.
A Brief History of Archiving in Language Documentation, with an Annotated Bibliography
Ryan Henke & Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker, pp. 411–457
We survey the history of practices, theories, and trends in archiving for the purposes of language documentation and endangered language conservation. We identify four major periods in the history of such archiving. First, a period from before the time of Boas and Sapir until the early 1990s, in which analog materials were collected and deposited into physical repositories that were not easily accessible to many researchers or speaker communities. A second period began in the 1990s, when increased attention to language endangerment and the development of modern documentary linguistics engendered a renewed and redefined focus on archiving and an embrace of digital technology. A third period took shape in the early twenty-first century, where technological advancements and efforts to develop standards of practice met with important critiques. Finally, in the current period, conversations have arisen toward participatory models for archiving, which break traditional boundaries to expand the audiences and uses for archives while involving speaker communities directly in the archival process. Following the article, we provide an annotated bibliography of 85 publications from the literature surrounding archiving in documentary linguistics. This bibliography contains cornerstone contributions to theory and practice, and it also includes pieces that embody conversations representative of particular historical periods.
Myaamiaataweenki eekincikoonihkiinki eeyoonki aapisaataweenki: A Miami Language Digital Tool for Language Reclamation
Daryl Baldwin, David J. Costa & Douglas Troy, pp. 394–410.
In 1988, a young graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley began searching for materials on a little-known Algonquian language called Miami, which had ceased to be spoken sometime in the mid-twentieth century. Prompted by curiosity to describe this little-known language, the search uncovered two and a half centuries of documentation. This archival record would serve as the basis for the grammatical reconstruction of what is known today as the Miami-Illinois language, a central Algonquian language of the southern Great Lakes region. These materials are crucial not only to the reconstruction of Miami-Illinois, but also for the growing interests of Myaamia (Miami) people to reclaim their language and cultural heritage. The next twenty years proved to be a struggle in locating, duplicating, organizing and building a physical corpus of data for linguistic analysis and use in community revitalization. Language reconstruction from documentation requires tools for archival interaction and access that linguistically-based software and database applications lacked at the time. This prompted Myaamia researchers and language educators to seek out support for the construction of a digital archival database that met the needs of both tribal linguists and community culture and language revitalizationists. The first version of the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive (MIDA) became a reality in 2012 after support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) was provided to Miami University’s Myaamia Center to develop this unique research tool. This paper describes the challenges of working with digitized archival materials and how MIDA has filled the software tool gap between archives, linguists and revitalizationists. The Miami-Illinois Digital Archive can be found at http://www.ilaatawaakani.org.
Animating Traditional Amazonian Storytelling: New Methods and Lessons from the Field
Wilson Silva, pp. 480–496.
In this paper I describe the development of digital animation of Desano traditional stories as a way to foster the inclusion of the Desano language in mainstream digital technology media, while promoting language maintenance and dissemination of cultural knowledge among youths and young adults. The project considers the shifting contexts in which many Desano people live in the contemporary period. Digital animated Desano stories provide important public, community, and scholarly validation for the language as living, dynamic, and vital. Qualitatively different from other written materials produced for the Desano communities, animated digital materials importantly make use of oral language (i.e., animation is accompanied by the original audio in Desano and Desano subtitles), thus exposing younger generations to the sounds and orthography of the language. Oral language-based resources via animation and narration of traditional stories can aid in the group’s language maintenance efforts as they reinforce the spoken language, familiarize the community with the orthography, and celebrate traditional knowledge.
An assessment of linguistic development in a Kaqchikel immersion school
Raina Heaton & Igor Xoyón, pp. 497–521.
This paper discusses two assessments designed to evaluate the progress of students in the Kaqchikel immersion program at Nimaläj Kaqchikel Amaq’. Picture-naming production and comprehension tasks were used to test for proficiency in phonology and morphology as well as lexical acquisition. The tests targeted basic contrasts which are important to Kaqchikel grammatical structure. While students are still struggling with many aspects of the language such as the phonology and positional verbs, many are able to understand and use singular vs. plural intransitive verb morphology. Results are being used to improve the program and inform future methodological and curricular decisions.
Collecting Texts in Endangered Languages: The Chickasaw Narrative Bootcamp
Colleen M. Fitzgerald & Lokosh (Joshua D. Hinson), pp. 522–547.
While data collection early in the Americanist tradition included texts as part of the Boasian triad, later developments in the generative tradition moved away from narratives. With a resurgence of attention to texts in both linguistic theory and language documentation, the literature on methodologies is growing (i.e., Chelliah 2001, Chafe 1980, Burton & Matthewson 2015). We outline our approach to collecting Chickasaw texts in what we call a ‘narrative bootcamp.’ Chickasaw is a severely threatened language and no longer in common daily use. Facilitating narrative collection with elder fluent speakers is an important goal, as is the cultivation of second language speakers and the training of linguists and tribal language professionals. Our bootcamps meet these goals. Moreover, we show many positive outcomes to this approach, including a positive sense of language use and ‘fun’ voiced by the elders, the corpus expansion that occurs by collecting and processing narratives onsite in the workshop, and field methods training for novices. Importantly, we find the sparking of personal recollections facilitates the collection of heretofore unrecorded narrative genres in Chickasaw. This approach offers an especially fruitful way to build and expand a text corpus for small communities of highly endangered languages.
Bonggi language vitality and local interest in language-related efforts: A participatory sociolinguistic study
Angela Kluge & Jeong-Ho Choi, pp. 548–600.
In Sabah, as in the rest of Malaysia, many indigenous languages are threatened by language shift to (Sabah) Malay. The present study examines to what extent Bonggi, an Austronesian language spoken on Banggi Island (Sabah State), is affected by these developments.
One research objective was to investigate Bonggi language vitality, and explore local (church) interest in and priorities for Bonggi language-related efforts. To minimize the influence of outside researchers, the methodological approach was based on a participatory approach to language development planning. A second objective was to examine the usefulness and appropriateness of the chosen approach.
Regarding the first research objective, the findings suggest that Bonggi language vitality is still vigorous in more remote parts of the island, while language vitality is weaker in the areas closer to the main town of the island. At the same time bilingualism in (Sabah) Malay appears to be pervasive throughout the Bonggi speech community. The findings also indicate that interest in Bonggi language work is rather limited. A few Bonggi church communities, however, expressed interest in creating Bonggi songs. Concerning the second research objective, the review of the methodology shows that the chosen approach is not appropriate in the context of research-driven sociolinguistic studies.
A tale of two worlds: A comparative study of language ecologies in Asia and the Americas
Stan Anonby & David M. Eberhard, pp. 601–628.
Language use patterns of individual speech communities are largely conditioned by the different language ecologies in which they are immersed. We believe this ecological stance helps explain why minority languages of Asia are more likely to be sustainable than those in the Americas. We have identified fourteen traits which characterize ecologies in general, describing how they play out differently in the Americas versus Asia. Each trait is considered to be on a continuum, with opposing values that measure whether conditions are more or less favorable to language maintenance. On one side of the continuum, we discuss the values in the Americas, and explain how these are more favorable to language shift. On the other side of the scale, we talk about the values in Asia, and explain how these are more conducive to language maintenance. To show the application of these traits, the paper also includes two in-depth case studies as prototypical examples from each area, one from the Americas and one from Asia. We conclude with some comments about how these traits can be useful for those engaged in language development work.
Bringing User-Centered Design to the Field of Language Archives
Christina Wasson, Gary Holton & Heather S. Roth, pp. 641–681.
This article describes findings from a workshop that initiated a dialogue between the fields of user-centered design (UCD) and language archives. One of the challenges facing language archives is the fact that they typically have multiple user groups with significantly different information needs, as well as varying cultural practices of data sharing, access and use. UCD, informed by design anthropology, can help developers of language archives identify the main user groups of a particular archive; work with those user groups to map their needs and cultural practices; and translate those insights into archive design. The article describes findings from the workshop on User-Centered Design of Language Archives in February 2016. It reviews relevant aspects of language archiving and user-centered design to construct the rationale for the workshop, relates key insights produced during the workshop, and outlines next steps in the larger research trajectory initiated by this workshop. One major insight from the workshop was the discovery that at present, most language archives are not meeting the needs of most users. Representatives from all user groups expressed frustration at the current design of most language archives. This discovery points to the value of introducing a user-centered approach, so that the design of language archives can be better informed by the needs of users.
Endangered Language Research and the Moral Depravity of Ethics Protocols
George van Driem, pp. 243–252
Am Faclair Beag Online Gaelic-English Dictionary, by Michael Bauer & William Robertson
Reviewed by Colleen Patton, pp. 155–163
Corpus-based studies of lesser-described languages. The CorpAfroAs corpus of spoken AfroAsiatic languages, edited by Amina Mettouchi, Martine Vanhove & Dominique Caubet
Reviewed by Stefan Schnell, pp. 629–640
Review of F4transkript, a simple interface for efficient annotation
Reviewed by Caroline Jones & Amit German, pp. 347–355
Notes from the Field
Notes from the Field: Ponosakan: The Sounds of a Silently Dying Language of Indonesia, with Supporting Audio Requires Acrobat Reader to play audio Version without audio files
Jason William Lobel, pp. 394–423