Category Archives: Special Publications

SP19: Documentation and Maintenance of Contact Languages from South Asia to East Asia

In press, to appear in January 2020.

SP18: Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond

ISBN: 978-0-9973295-7-5

Edited by Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel

Co-published with Sydney University Press

Individual Chapters

Editors’ preface – Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, & Petronella Vaarzon-Morel

Conundrums and consequences: Doing digital archival returns in Australia – Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, Petronella Vaarzon-Morel, & Katya Zissermann

The practices of archival return may provide some measure of social equity to Indigenous Australians. Yet priceless cultural collections, amassed over many decades, are in danger of languishing without ever finding reconnection to the individuals and communities of their origin. The extensive documentary heritage of Australian Indigenous peoples is dispersed, and in many cases participants in the creation of archival records, or their descendants, have little idea of where to find these records. These processes of casting memories of the past into the future bring various conundrums of a social, political, and technical nature. They raise questions about the nature and dynamics of ongoing cultural transmission, the role of institutional and community archives in both protecting records of languages, song and social history and disseminating them, and the responsibilities of researchers, organisations and end users in this complex intercultural space. These questions are perforce framed by ethical and legal questions about access, competing ideas of ownership, and shifting community protocols surrounding rights of access to and the dissemination of cultural information. This paper arises from a project designed to reintegrate such research collections of Central Australian cultural knowledge with the places and communities from which they originally emanated. While we show that the issues raised are seldom neutral and often complex, we also argue for the power that culturally appropriate mobilisation of archival materials has for those that inherit the knowledge they embody.

Deciphering Arrernte archives: The intermingling of textual and living knowledge – Jason Gibson, Shaun Angeles, & Joel Liddle

Arrernte people are arguably the most documented Aboriginal group in Australia. Their language was studiously documented by Lutheran scholars, their ceremonies were subject to some of the most intensive ethnographic documentation and many of their songs were meticulously recorded. In addition, genealogical and historical archives are full of Arrernte social histories, and museum stores contain thousands of Arrernte-made artefacts. This chapter contains a condensed and edited transcript of interviews with two Arrernte men, Shaun Angeles and Joel Liddle, who discuss their deep and varied interests in these records and the archives that contain them. Both Joel and Shaun are of a younger cohort of Arrernte men living in the Alice Springs region who are increasingly interested in utilising the potential of archival material as a means of assisting Arrernte language and cultural transmission. These interviews explore some of the issues Arrernte peoples confront as they work through archives. We discuss the challenges of variant orthographies in the 19th and 20th century records, the limitations of conventional cataloguing requirements and the importance of reading archival texts in a way that sees them emplaced and tested against the knowledge of elders. Archival records are explained as being necessarily embedded within Arrernte social memory and orality and framed by local socio-cultural practices. Reflecting upon their own experiences, Joel and Shaun are able to provide advice to future generations in their dealings with collecting institutions and make recommendations to current and future researchers (ethnographic and linguistic) who are documenting Arandic material. The chapter concludes with a discussion about the role of digital technologies in the future dissemination of cultural materials.

Reflections on the preparation and delivery of Carl Strehlow’s heritage dictionary (1909) to the Western Aranda people – Anna Kenny

This chapter reflects on the predicaments encountered while bringing ethnographic and linguistic archival materials, and in particular an Aranda, German, Loritja [Luritja], and Dieri dictionary manuscript compiled by Carl Strehlow and with more than 7,600 entries, into the public domain. This manuscript, as well as other unique documents held at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs and elsewhere in Australia, is surrounded by competing views about ownership and control. In this case study I discuss my research and work with Western Aranda people concerning the transcription and translation into English of the dictionary manuscript. I also discuss the immense difficulties I faced in seeing the dictionary through to final publication. I encountered vested interests in this ethno-linguistic treasure that I had not been aware of and ownership claims that I had not taken into account. They arose from diverse quarters – from academia, from individuals in the Lutheran church, from Indigenous organisations, and from the Northern Territory Government. One such intervention almost derailed the dictionary work by actions that forced the suspension of the project for over 12 months. In this chapter I track the complex history of this manuscript, canvas the views of various stakeholders, and detail interpretations and reactions of Aranda people to the issues involved.

Returning recordings of songs that persist: The Anmatyerr traditions of akiw and anmanty – Jason Gibson

Digitisation has made the return of recordings made by researchers in the past far more achievable than ever before. This technological advance, combined with the ethical and political imperative towards decolonising methodologies in Indigenous research, has resulted in considerable interest in ensuring that recordings of cultural value be returned to Indigenous communities. In this chapter, I reflect upon the fieldwork experience of returning archival song recordings concerning public aspects of male initiation ceremonies, known as akiw and anmanty, to Anmatyerr-speaking communities in the Northern Territory of Australia. Despite attenuation of song knowledge across the region, these songs continue to be sung at annual ritual events. Once these recordings were returned to these communities, Anmatyerr people quickly received them as important reiterations of their present-day socio-cultural expression. Evidently imbricated in a complex, ritually based form of complementary filiation and knowledge dissemination, these songs are shared and taught in a fragile and changing context of ceremonial practice. The account provided here offers insights into songs associated with arguably the most persistent and significant form of ceremonial practice in Central Australia, although sparsely documented in the Anmatyerr region. I also highlight the relational properties of song via their connections to place, Anengkerr ‘Dreaming’ and people and provide important insights into how these communities perceive the archiving and preservation of this material.

Incorporating archival cultural heritage materials into contemporary Warlpiri women’s yawulyu spaces – Georgia Curran

National archives house a rich legacy of materials that document many intangible aspects of Indigenous cultural heritage. It is the moral right of Indigenous people to have access to these materials, but their reintroduction back into present-day worlds is not without impact. Here, I analyse contemporary spaces in which Warlpiri women have engaged with archival cultural heritage materials and incorporated them into present-day contexts for the performance of yawulyu. These include the production of song books, dance camps at bush locations, and broader community arts performances. These cases illustrate that for proper engagement with these legacy materials knowledgeable Indigenous people must lead activities which are supported as part of the repatriation process.

Enlivening people and country: The Lander Warlpiri cultural mapping project – Petronella Vaarzon-Morel & Luke Kelly

This chapter discusses a cultural mapping project funded and directed by Lander Warlpiri Anmatyerr people in Central Australia with the collaboration of the authors and the support of the Central Land Council. The project arose from the concerns of elders over the changing lifeworld of Warlpiri people today and the reduced opportunities for younger people to acquire the embodied place-based knowledge and experiences regarded as foundational to local identity, social interrelationships, and cultural continuity. It aimed to revitalise cultural knowledge through engaging family groups in activities such as country visits and mapping, during which the teaching and recording of place names, Dreaming tracks, and countries occurred along with the performance of associated stories, song, and rituals. This process involved the sharing and negotiation of the knowledge of country elders hold, augmented by ethnographic information derived from archival and other sources; for example, land claim maps and digitised material, including photographs, audio and visual recordings of narratives, places, song, and geo-referenced data. Attending to the ways in which local Indigenous practices of representing and inscribing people’s relations with space and place may differ from and interlace with dominant western spatial regimes, cartographic practices, and technologies, we explore outcomes and issues that have arisen during the process of re-animation and evocation of place-based knowledge and memories.

(Re)turning research into pedagogical practice: A case study of translational language research in Warlpiri – Carmel O’Shannessy, Samantha Disbray, Barbara Martin, & Gretel Macdonald

Speech corpora created primarily for linguistic research are not often easily repurposed for practical use by the communities who participated in the research. This chapter describes a process where methods and materials collected for language documentation research have been returned to speakers in communities; this involves the implementation of professional development activities for Warlpiri educators in bilingual education programs. Documentation of children’s speech took place in four Warlpiri communities in 2010. To make the research results available to educators in Warlpiri communities in an easily accessible way, the researcher produced short videos showing analyses of the children’s speech. These online videos, along with audio recordings and written transcripts of the children’s speech, were utilised by a team of linguists and educators at professional development workshops in the Northern Territory Department of Education. Educators actively worked with the materials, discussed issues relating to children’s oral language development, and identified potential pedagogical practices. Through this process the materials were returned to the Warlpiri community and utilised in an active cycle of locally focused professional learning activities.

“The songline is alive in Mukurtu”: Return, reuse, and respect – Kimberly Christen

This chapter examines the return, reuse, and repositioning of archival materials within Indigenous communities and specifically within the Warumungu Aboriginal community in Central Australia. Over the last 20 years there has been an uptake in collecting institutions and scholars returning cultural, linguistic, and historical material to Indigenous communities in digital formats. These practices of digital return have been spurred by decolonisation and reconciliation movements globally, and at the same time catalysed by new technologies that allow for surrogates to be returned and concurrently reinvented, reused, and reimagined in community, kin-based, and place-based social and cultural networks. Examining the creation, use, and ongoing development of Mukurtu CMS, this article focuses on the implications for digital return as a type of repatriation that promotes decolonising strategies and reparative frameworks for engagement.

“For the children…”: Aboriginal Australia, cultural access, and archival obligation – Brenda L Croft, Sandy Toussaint, Felicity Meakins, & Patrick McConvell

For whom are archival documents created and conserved? Who is obliged to care for them and provide access to their content, and for how long? The state, libraries, museums and galleries, researchers, interlocutors, genealogists, family heritage organisations? Or does material collected long ago and then archived belong personally, socially, emotionally, culturally, and intellectually to the people from whom the original material was collected and, eventually, to their descendants? In a colonised nation, additional ethical and epistemological questions arise: Are archives protected and accessed for the colonised or the colonisers, or both? How are differences regarding archival creation, protection, and access distinguished, and in whose interest? Is it for future generations? What happens when archives are accessed and read by family members and/or researchers, and what happens when they are not? A focus on two interrelated stories – firstly an experiential account narrated by Brenda L Croft about constructive archival management and access, and secondly a contrasting example relating how the Berndt Field Note Archive continues to be restricted from entitled claimants – facilitates a return to three interrelated questions: for whom are archives created and conserved, who is obliged to care for, and authorise access to, them, and to whom do they belong?

Working at the interface: The Daly Languages Project – Rachel Nordlinger, Ian Green, & Peter Hurst

In this paper we present the Daly Languages Project (, funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, and in collaboration with the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC), which has developed website landing pages for all of the languages of the Daly region of northern Australia. These landing pages provide a useful and usable interface by which a range of users can access primary recordings, fieldnotes, and other resources about the Daly languages; they are powered by a relational database which allows for easy updating, ensuring consistency across the website and allowing for an immediate response to community requests. Moreover, since the website is built with a commitment to open source, it is available for other researchers to adapt to their own projects and language groups. In this paper we discuss the goals and outcomes of the project, the design and functionality of the website landing pages, and advise readers on how they can access and adapt the open-source framework for their own purposes.

“We never had any photos of my family”: Archival return, film, and a personal history – Fred Myers & Lisa Stefanoff

The film Remembering Yayayi emerged from a project to return raw 16mm film footage shot in 1974 at the early Pintupi outstation of Yayayi, near Papunya, by filmmaker Ian Dunlop, with Fred Myers as translator and consultant. Two subsequent remote Pintupi communities, Kintore and Kiwirrkura, were involved in the footage’s return. The material had not been available for research (or other) purposes until 2005, when VHS copies were made from the workprint deposited in the National Archives of Australia. In 2006, Myers and Stefanoff took this rare historical visual material in Pintupi language to Kintore and Kiwirrkura, showing it to individuals and family groups and holding community screenings. Responses were overwhelmingly positive. The tapes quickly became regular entertainment for patients undergoing lengthy renal dialysis sessions and Myers received multiple requests for copies. Over several years, one of Myers’ long-term Pintupi friends, Marlene Spencer Nampitjinpa, came to provide a moving personal commentary on the footage, enabling a feature documentary to be produced from it. This chapter draws on a conversation with Stefanoff and Myers to reflect on how the repatriation project became a catalyst for memory and produced new Pintupi community historical knowledge, particularly about outstation life, early efforts at developing local forms of self-determination and the transformation of lives and wellbeing over a 40-year period.

Return of a travelling song: Wanji-wanji in the Pintupi region of Central Australia – Myfany Turpin

This chapter discusses responses to the return of legacy recordings of Pintupi singing made in 1976 and the collection of further metadata about the song Wanji-wanji featured on the recordings. Wanji-wanji was once a popular entertainment song that was performed across the western half of Australia, as can be seen by the many recordings of it held in archives. Custodianship of the song is unknown; the earliest reference to its performance dates back to the 1850s, where it is described as a ‘travelling dance’ (Bates 1913–1914) and so in terms of copyright its status may be comparable to ‘public domain’, i.e. outside of copyright. Responses to hearing the recording were emotional. Those who knew the song recalled the place and time in which they had heard it long ago. There was great interest in how widely it was known though little interest in the meanings of the lyrics. On the whole, responses to access and proposed uses of the recordings, as well as the future possible uses of the song, reflected its public domain status. Nevertheless, the confidence in people’s responses varied depending on whether the individual knew the song, had experience in using archival recordings, and whether they perceived community interest and support for classical Aboriginal singing practices.

Never giving up: Negotiating, culture-making, and the infinity of the archive – Sabra Thorner, Linda Rive, John Dallwitz, & Janet Inyika

Archival returns are a significant issue of concern for Indigenous peoples in many settler-colonial contexts. This chapter focuses on one example from Central Australia, Aṟa Irititja, to reflect on how an archive might simultaneously preserve ‘culture’ and also reflect, accommodate, and inspire cultural change. We feature the words of an Aṉangu ‘senior law woman’, Janet Inyika (affectionately known as Mrs Never-Give-Up), and our co-authorship is consistent with this community archive’s commitment to co-production, yet also extends Inyika’s social justice work into the future. Together, we argue that a collaborative, intercultural approach to archiving, in conjunction with the affordances of digital media, facilitate negotiations that are culturally appropriate, and not threatening. Aṟa Irititja is inspiring the production of a new genre of archival metadata: advance directives on what to do with representations of a person upon his/her death. These words are urging a shift in protocols for the correct treatment of photographs, asserting new domains of individual authority, and establishing the archive as the proper medium through which these should occur. The archive is also a site through which culture-making is never complete, always ongoing – indeed, infinite.

Nura’s vision: Nura’s voice – Suzanne Bryce, Julia Burke, & Linda Rive

For Nura Nungalka Ward (1942–2013) the art of teaching was a lifelong passion, culminating in Ninu grandmothers’ law, published by Magabala Books (2018). This autobiography is an extensive ethnography of daily life for Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara families still living on their traditional lands amid the profound changes brought by the arrival of white settlers, doggers, missionaries and atomic bomb tests. Nura’s achievement – compiling her life history illustrated with striking photographs into an English language autobiography – seems like a natural progression. Until you consider that Nura spoke and taught in Pitjantjatjara, her Aṉangu (Aboriginal) language from the remote northwest corner of South Australia, and the fact that she possessed no family photograph albums. How did she make that leap, way beyond her life experience in an oral storytelling tradition, to embrace the idea of a book? How did the return of archival records to Nura’s kin via a digital repository in the early 2000s help shape Nura’s memories?
This chapter details Nura’s process: her compelling drive to teach and her willingness to embrace new technologies, such as the digital archive Aṟa Irititja, which she first used to record her knowledge and then drew on to achieve her ambitions. We discuss the complexities that occur when accessing the digital content and Nura’s vigilance in ensuring that she broke no cultural rules in the process. We also share Nura’s decade-long journey as she collaborated with three non-Aboriginal friends to move her spoken word story through the digital archive and into the printed form, in what is the most significant publication to date to be sourced through the Aṟa Irititja Project.

i-Tjuma: The journey of a collection – from documentation to delivery – Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis, Jennifer Green, & Inge Kral

In 2018, a collection of some 60 edited and subtitled films, resulting from a documentation project (2012–2018) in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands on verbal arts of the Western Desert, was ready to be returned to the Ngaanyatjarra community. In this case study, we describe the journey of this return and the cultural, ethical, and technological issues that we negotiated in the process. From the archived collection lodged with PARADISEC (Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures), we developed a workflow that harvested selected media and their associated metadata and transferred them to LibraryBox, a portable digital file distribution tool designed to enable local delivery of media via the LibraryBox Wi-Fi hotspot. We detail here the return of the curated collection in a series of community film festivals in the Ngaanyatjarra communities and via the delivery of media from LibraryBox to individual mobile phones. We also discuss the return of a digital collection of historical photographs of Ngaanyatjarra people and strategies to re-inscribe such old records for new purposes. These endeavours are motivated by the imperative to ‘mobilise’ our collection of Western Desert Verbal Arts by making the recordings available to the Ngaanyatjarra community. We anticipate that the lessons we learnt in the process will contribute to better design for local solutions in the iterative cycle of documentation, archiving, and return.

Ever-widening circles: Consolidating and enhancing Wirlomin Noongar archival material in the community – Clint Bracknell & Kim Scott

Returning archival documentation of endangered Indigenous languages to their community of origin can provide empowering opportunities for Indigenous people to control, consolidate, enhance and share their cultural heritage with ever-widening, concentric circles of people, while also allowing time and space for communities to recover from disempowerment and dislocation. This process aligns with an affirming narrative of Indigenous persistence that, despite the context of colonial dispossession, can lead to a positive, self-determined future. In 2007, senior Noongar of the Wirlomin clan in the south coast region of Western Australia initiated Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Inc., an organisation set up to facilitate cultural and linguistic revitalisation by combining community-held knowledge with documentation and recordings repatriated from the archives. Fieldnotes created in 1931 from discussions with local Aboriginal people at Albany, Western Australia have inspired the collaborative production of six illustrated bilingual books. Working with archival research material has presented challenges due to issues of orthography and legibility in written records, the poor quality of audio recordings, and the incomplete documentation of elicitation sessions. As the archive is so fragmentary, community knowledge is vital in making sense of its contents.

SP17: Language and Toponymy in Alaska and Beyond

Papers in Honor of James Kari

Edited by Gary Holton & Thomas F. Thornton
ISBN 978-0-9973295-4-4
March 1, 2019

It is difficult to imagine place names research in Alaska without the work of James Kari. Through his tireless field work and advocacy, Dr. Kari has collaborated with speakers of all of Alaska’s Dene languages to help build a comprehensive record of Dene geographic knowledge. When Jim came to Alaska in 1972, the documentation of Dene languages was fragmentary at best, and the only records of Native place names were those found inaccurately spelled on maps and gazetteers. Now nearly a half a century later we are surrounded by Native names—from K’esugi Ridge in Susitna Valley to Troth Yeddha’ on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The increased visibility of Alaska Native place names today is due in no small part to Jim’s efforts. His work has inspired a generation of scholars, including the contributors to this volume, and continues to set the standard for toponymy research in Alaska and beyond. 

A print version of this volume, in paper with sewn binding, will be published by the Alaska Native Language Center Press in July 2019.

Individual chapters

Introduction: James Kari’s Contributions to Geolinguistics and Dene Language Studies (Gary Holton and Thomas F. Thornton)

Chapter 2: “From this point…the river changes its name again”: Lavrentiy Zagoskin’s Contributions to the Study of Alaska Native Place Names (Kenneth L. Pratt)

Chapter 3: Raven’s Work in Tlingit Ethno-geography (Thomas Thornton)

Chapter 4: T’aakú Téix’i – The Heart of the Taku: A multifaceted place name from the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (Christine Schreyer)

Chapter 5: Directional reference in discourse and narrative: Comparing indigenous and non-indigenous genres in Ahtna (Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker)

Chapter 6: Losing one’s way: Geographical and moral lessons in the Butterfly Story in Upper Tanana Athabascan (Caleb Brucks and Olga Lovick)

Chapter 7: Place naming strategies in Lower Tanana Dene (Athabascan) (Gary Holton and David Jason Harris)

Chapter 8: Tagish and Tlingit Place Naming Traditions of Southwestern Yukon: Evidence of Language Shift (Patrick Moore)

Chapter 9: Direct borrowings and loan-translations of Navajo toponyms into New Mexican Spanish: Examples and explanations (Stephen C. Jett)

Chapter 10: Yeniseian and Athapaskan Hydronyms (Edward Vajda)

Chapter 11: Crossing the Etolin Strait and the Challenges Presented by a Single Place Name (Robert Drozda)

SP16: Methodological tools for linguistic description and typology

ISBN: 978-0-9973295-5-1

Edited by Aimée Lahaussois and Marine Vuillermet

This volume is an outcome of a collaborative multi-year research project on Questionnaires for linguistic description and typology. For the purposes of the project, we use Questionnaire (with a capital Q) as a general term to cover any kind of methodological tool designed to elicit linguistic expressions, including word lists, visual stimuli, descriptive templates, field manuals, and the like. This volume thus brings together articles about written questionnaires and visual stimuli, which due to their epistemological differences are rarely considered together, and treats them as sub-types of the large category of methodological tools that help linguists carry out descriptive and comparative work.

  • Front matter – January 1, 2019
  • Whole volume – January 1, 2019
  • Front cover – January 1, 2019
  • Introduction: Methodological tools for linguistic description and typology – Aimée Lahaussois & Marine Vuillermet
  • Linguistic diversity, language documentation and psycholinguistics: The role of stimuli – Birgit Hellwig
    Abstract: Our psycholinguistic theories tend to be based on empirical data from a biased sample of well-described languages, not doing justice to the enormous linguistic diversity in the world. As Evans and Levinson (2009: 447) put it, a major challenge of our discipline is to harness this linguistic diversity and “to show how the child’s mind can learn and the adult’s mind can use, with approximately equal ease, any one of this vast range of alternative systems.” This paper explores some of the possibilities and limits of how language documentation and description can contribute to taking up this challenge, focusing on the role of both natural data and stimuli in this enterprise.
  • The TULQuest linguistic questionnaire archive – Aimée Lahaussois
    Abstract: This article describes the development and structure of an online interactive archive for linguistic questionnaires developed by the Fédération de Typologie et Universaux Linguistiques (CNRS) program on Questionnaires. The archive allows users to both retrieve and deposit material, with questionnaires categorized according to a taxonomy of features. Questionnaires, defined by our project as any methodological tool designed to collect linguistic data, and written with a capital to highlight this special use of the term, are accompanied by additional materials beyond basic metadata, ranging from a summary of usage protocol, development context, reviews and user tips, as well as the possibility of linking together questionnaires that have been adapted from an original, reflecting the dynamic nature of questionnaire use.
  • Automatic construction of lexical typological Questionnaires – Denis Paperno & Daria Ryzhova
    Abstract: Questionnaires constitute a crucial tool in linguistic typology and language description. By nature, a Questionnaire is both an instrument and a result of typological work: its purpose is to help the study of a particular phenomenon cross-linguistically or in a particular language, but the creation of a Questionnaire is in turn based on the analysis of cross-linguistic data. We attempt to alleviate linguists’ work by constructing lexical Questionnaires automatically prior to any manual analysis. A convenient Questionnaire format for revealing fine-grained semantic distinctions includes pairings of words with diagnostic contexts that trigger different lexicalizations across languages. Our method to construct this type of a Questionnaire relies on distributional vector representations of words and phrases which serve as input to a clustering algorithm. As an output, our system produces a compact prototype Questionnaire for crosslinguistic exploration of contextual equivalents of lexical items, with groups of three homogeneous contexts illustrating each usage. We provide examples of automatically generated Questionnaires based on 100 frequent adjectives of Russian, including veselyj ‘funny’, ploxoj ‘bad’, dobryj ‘kind’, bystryj ‘quick’, ogromnyj ‘huge’, krasnyj ‘red’, byvšij ‘former’ etc. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the Questionnaires confirms the viability of our method.
  • Using questionnaires as a tool for comparative linguistic field research: Two case studies on Javanese – Jozina Vander Klok & Thomas J. Conners
    Abstract: In this paper, we discuss how written questionnaires for targeted constructions can be a beneficial tool for comparative linguistic field research through two case studies on Javanese (Austronesian; Indonesia). The first case study is based on a questionnaire designed to elicit how a language or a dialect expresses the semantic meaning of modality (Vander Klok 2014); we show how it can be implemented in three different ways for comparative linguistic field research. The second case study is based on a questionnaire which investigates the morphosyntax of polar questions across four Javanese dialects; we show how items can be designed to maximize direct comparison of features while still allowing for possible lexical, phonological, or morphosyntactic variation. Based on these two studies, we also address methodological challenges that arise in using questionnaires in comparative linguistic field research and offer best practices to overcome these challenges.
  • Trajectoire: a methodological tool for eliciting Path of motion – Marine Vuillermet & Anetta Kopecka
    Abstract: This paper presents a methodological tool called Trajectoire that was created to elicit the expression of Path of motion in typologically and genetically varied languages. Designed within the research program TRAJECTOIRE ‘Path (of motion)’, supported by the Fédération de Typologie et Universaux Linguistiques, the Trajectoire elicitation tool aims to systematically explore the morpho-syntactic resources used for the expression of Path and the distribution of spatial information across the sentence, with a specific focus on the (a)symmetry in the expression of Source (the initial point) and Goal (the final point). Its main aim is to facilitate typologically-informed language descriptions, which in their turn can contribute new data to typologically-oriented research. Inspired by the research methods developed at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, NL), the Trajectoire material comprises 76 video-clips consisting of 2 training clips, 55 target clips and 19 fillers, and it includes 3 distinct versions ordering the clips differently to minimize possible routine effects. The 55 target clips vary for several parameters, namely Figure, Ground, the different portions of Path, Deixis, and less systematically, Manner. The scenes filmed in an outdoor natural environment ensure accessibility to non-Western populations. The paper first presents the structure and the use of the elicitation material. On the basis of the data obtained in about 20 different languages and reports by users, both researchers and speakers, it then discusses the advantages and some drawbacks of the Trajectoire elicitation tool, and considers the issue of the tool’s dissemination and online open access.
  • Video elicitation of negative directives in Alaskan Dene languages: reflections on methodology – Olga Lovick & Siri G. Tuttle
    Abstract: In this paper, we describe the use of video stimuli for the targeted elicitation of negative directives in Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Nee’andeegn’ (Upper Tanana), two severely endangered Alaskan Dene languages. Negative directives are extremely rare in our previously collected data, yet they exhibit a great variety of forms. Forms further seem to depend on several factors, particularly on whether the prohibited act violates social norms known as htlaanee/ jih. To better understand the variety of on-record and off-record forms, we created video clips showing activities violating htlaanee/ jih and activities that are merely foolish or mildly dangerous. After viewing the clips, our consultants were asked to advise the actors as if they were their grandchildren. Their responses were discussed at length with the speakers. The speakers greatly enjoyed this task and produced a great variety of on-record and off-record responses including some unusual linguistic structures. In both languages, offrecord expressions were preferred over direct ones, particularly in situations where htlaanee/ jih was involved. We also identified several conventionalized off-record strategies. The emphasis on htlaanee/ jih made the task interesting and relevant for speakers. While our stimuli are designed for work with Alaskan Dene, the method can be adapted for cultural contexts around the world.
  • A proposal for conversational questionnaires – Alexandre François
    Abstract: This paper proposes a new approach for collecting lexical and grammatical data: one that meets the need to control the features to be elicited, while ensuring a fair level of idiomaticity. The method, called conversational questionnaires, consists in eliciting speech not at the level of words or of isolated sentences, but in the form of a chunk of dialogue. Ahead of fieldwork, a number of scripted conversations are written in the area’s lingua franca, each anchored in a plausible real-world situation – whether universal or culture-specific. Native speakers are then asked to come up with the most naturalistic utterances that would occur in each context, resulting in a plausible conversation in the target language. Experience shows that conversational questionnaires provide a number of advantages in linguistic fieldwork, compared to traditional elicitation methods. The anchoring in real-life situations lightens the cognitive burden on consultants, making the fieldwork experience easier for all. The method enables efficient coverage of various linguistic structures at once, from phonetic to pragmatic dimensions, from morphosyntax to phraseology. The tight-knit structure of each dialogue makes it an effective tool for cross-linguistic comparison, whether areal, historical or typological. Conversational questionnaires help the linguist make quick progress in language proficiency, which in turn facilitates further stages of data collection. Finally, these stories can serve as learning resources for language teaching and revitalization. Five dialogue samples are provided here as examples of such questionnaires. Every linguist is encouraged to write their own dialogues, adapted to a region’s linguistic and cultural profile. Ideally, a set of such texts could be developed and made standard among linguists, so as to create comparable or parallel corpora across languages – a mine of data for typological comparison.

SP15: Reflections on Language Documentation 20 Years after Himmelmann 1998

Edited by Bradley McDonnell, Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker & Gary Holton

University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9973295-3-7
December 31, 2018

This volume reflects on key issues in the field of language documentation on the 20 year anniversary of Nikolaus Himmelmann’s seminal article “Documentary and descriptive linguistics” in the journal Linguistics. Himmelmann’s central argument that language documentation should “be conceived of as a fairly independent field of linguistic inquiry and practice” has prompted major theoretical and practical shifts, helping to establish documentary linguistics as a genuine subfield of linguistics. Now 20 years later we are able ask: how has this new field evolved?

In order to address this question, we invited 38 experts from around the world to reflect on either particular issues within the realm of language documentation or particular regions where language documentation projects are being carried out. The issues discussed in this volume represent a broad and diverse range of topics from multiple perspectives and for multiple purposes. Some topics have been hotly debated over the past two decades, while others have emerged more recently. Many contributors also speculate on what comes next, looking at the future of documentary linguistics from a variety of perspectives. Hence, the 31 vignettes provide not only reflections on where we have been but also a glimpse of where the field might be headed.

Download entire volume: PDF

Chapter 1: Introduction (Bradley McDonnell, Gary Holton and Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker)

Part I: Reimagining Documentary Linguistics

Part II: Key issues in language documentation

Part III: Beyond description: Creating and using language documentations

Part IV: Fieldwork and language documentation around the world

SP14: A Descriptive Grammar of Shilluk

By Bert Remijsen & Otto Gwado Ayoker
ISBN: 978-0-9973295-2-9

This special publication of Language Documentation & Conservation presents descriptive analyses on topics in the grammar of Shilluk, a Nilo Saharan language spoken primarily in South Sudan. A salient characteristic of Shilluk is that it is rich in fusional morphology. That is, stem-internal changes, particularly in terms of tone and vowel length, have a high functional load in the paradigms of verbs and nouns. From 2008 onwards, we have built up a detailed understanding of these contrasts and their role in the grammar. Accountability is a central concern in documentary and descriptive linguistics, and it is one that has determined the design of this publication in various ways. One way we are ensuring that our description is accountable is by including sound examples. We do this because the phenomena themselves are sounds; transcriptions based on the sounds are hypotheses. Aside from making the work more accountable, sound examples embedded in publications make the phenomena more accessible, reducing the threshold between the reader and an unfamiliar language.

This grammar represents a long-term project. It will be published in instalments.

Front matter
Chapter 1: Forms and functions of the base paradigm of Shilluk transitive verbs
Chapter 2: Inflectional morphology and number marking in Shilluk nouns
Chapter 3: Forms and functions of the associated-motion derivations of Shilluk transitive verbs


SP08: The Art and Practice of Grammar Writing

University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-9856211-4-8 (2014)

Edited by Toshihide Nakayama and Keren Rice





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SP07: Language Endangerment and Preservation in South Asia

front coverUniversity of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9856211-4-8 (2014)

Edited by Hugo C. Cardoso





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SP06: Microphone in the Mud

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University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9856211-3-1 (2013)


LD&C Special Publication No. 6
By Laura Robinson (with Gary Robinson)




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SP05: Melanesian Languages on the Edge of Asia: Challenges for the 21st Century

SP05 front coverUniversity of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9856211-2-4 (2012)

Melanesian Languages on the Edge of Asia: Challenges for the 21st Century

LD&C Special Publication No. 5
Edited by Nicholas Evans & Marian Klamer
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SP04: Electronic Grammaticography

LD&C SP04 coverUniversity of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9856211-1-7 (2012)

Electronic Grammaticography

LD&C Special Publication No. 4
Edited by Sebastian Nordhoff

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SP03: Potentials of Language Documentation: Methods, Analyses, and Utilization

LD&C SP03 cover
University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-9856211-0-0 (2012)

Potentials of Language Documentation: Methods, Analyses, and Utilization

LD&C Special Publication No. 3
Edited by Frank Seifart, Geoffrey Haig, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, Dagmar Jung, Anna Margetts, and Paul Trilsbeek

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SP02: Fieldwork and Linguistic Analysis in Indigenous Languages of the Americas

front cover
University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-8248-3530-9 (2010)

Fieldwork and Linguistic Analysis in Indigenous Languages of the Americas

LD&C Special Publication No. 2
Edited by Andrea L. Berez, Jean Mulder, and Daisy Rosenblum

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SP01: Documenting and Revitalizing Austronesian Languages

University of Hawai‘i Press
ISBN 978-0-8248-3309-1 (2007)

Documenting and Revitalizing Austronesian Languages

LD&C Special Publication No. 1
Edited by D. Victoria Rau and Margaret Florey

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