Using TEI for an Endangered Language Lexical Resource: The Nxaʔamxcín Database-Dictionary Project
This paper describes the evolution of a lexical resource project for Nxaʔamxcín, an endangered Salish language, from the project’s inception in the 1990s, based on legacy materials recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, to its current form as an online database that is transformable into various print and web-based formats for varying uses. We illustrate how we are using TEI P5 for data-encoding and archiving and show that TEI is a mature, reliable, flexible standard which is a valuable tool for lexical and morphological markup and for the production of lexical resources. Lexical resource creation, as is the case with language documentation and description more generally, benefits from portability and thus from conformance to standards (Bird and Simons 2003, Thieberger 2011). This paper therefore also discusses standards-harmonization, focusing on our attempt to achieve interoperability in format and terminology between our database and standards proposed for LMF, RELISH and GOLD. We show that, while it is possible to achieve interoperability, ultimately it is difficult to do so convincingly, thus raising questions about what conformance to standards means in practice.
This paper highlights the role of speech community members on a series of interconnected projects to document, study and maintain Kokama, a deeply endangered language from the Peruvian Amazon. The remaining fluent speakers of the language are mostly older than 60 years of age, are spread out across various small villages, and speak the language in very restricted situations. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, it demonstrates with concrete examples that outcomes of projects implemented in collaboration with speakers yield more broadly useful outcomes than those conducted by a linguist working alone. Second, it underscores the significance of documenting language interaction among different types of speakers in accordance with the view that language preservation is not only about promoting a linguistic code, but also includes documenting communicative practices. The projects reported here can contribute to the development of fieldwork methodologies to work with a range of speakers. The involvement of community members has been crucial for the design of culturally relevant strategies to assess fluency in Kokama, for the naturalness and variety within the collected data, and for the documentation of interactional patterns essential for revitalization initiatives. This paper supports the view that language documentation, language preservation, and linguistic research can be complementary endeavors.
More than Words: Towards a Development-Based Approach to Language Revitalization
Existing models for language revitalization focus almost exclusively on language learning and use. While recognizing the value of these models, we argue that their effective application is largely limited to situations in which languages have low numbers of speakers. For languages that are rapidly undergoing language shift, but which still maintain large vital communities of speakers, a model for revitalization is currently lacking. We offer the beginnings of such a model here, arguing that in these communities doing language revitalization must primarily mean addressing the causes of language shift, a task that we argue can be undertaken in collaborative efforts with social development organizations. The model contrasts strongly (though complementarily) with existing models in that it focuses on work in which explicitly language-focused activities are undertaken only as intentional support for social development projects. Where successful, we argue this approach achieves language revitalization goals in organic and sustainable ways that are much more difficult for language-focused programs to achieve. It therefore has the potential to stop and potentially reverse language shift in specific ways. We offer our experiences with Wuqu’ Kawoq|Maya Health Alliance, a healthcare NGO in Guatemala, which attempts to follow this model, as evidence for the model’s viability.
Using Gesture to Teach Seneca in a Language Nest School
Seneca elder Sandy Dowdy and her granddaughter Autumn Crouse direct a language nest school for children aged two to five years in a small longhouse-shaped building, Ganöhsesge:kha:’ Hë:nödeyë:sta’:, or the FaithKeepers School, on the Seneca Allegany Territory in upstate New York. They practice immersion teaching and use forms of gesturing to teach the children both conversational and spiritual functions of Seneca, capitalizing on the belief that the use of gesturing is an effective tool for teaching children, especially those in the toddler range. Gesturing is useful because language and gesture are positively linked, signing links concepts to verbal learning, gesture helps aid memory, and incorporating gesture while learning a language encourages active learning. Gesturing also helps children learn complex concepts, which is ideal for teaching Seneca since the children are learning the Ganö:nyök, literally, ‘let it be used for expressing thanks’ and otherwise known as the Thanksgiving Address, a daily recitation that expresses thankfulness for all of creation.
Documenting and Researching Endangered Languages: The Pangloss Collection
The Pangloss Collection is a language archive developed since 1994 at the Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale (LACITO) research group of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). It contributes to the documentation and study of the world’s languages by providing free access to documents of connected, spontaneous speech, mostly in endangered or under-resourced languages, recorded in their cultural context and transcribed in consultation with native speakers. The Collection is an Open Archive containing media files (recordings), text annotations, and metadata; it currently contains over 1,400 recordings in 70 languages, including more than 400 transcribed and annotated documents. The annotations consist of transcription, free translation in English, French and/or other languages, and, in many cases, word or morpheme glosses; they are time-aligned with the recordings, usually at the utterance level. A web interface makes these annotations accessible online in an interlinear display format, in synchrony with the sound, using any standard browser. The structure of the XML documents makes them accessible to searching and indexing, always preserving the links to the recordings. Long-term preservation is guaranteed through a partnership with a digital archive. A guiding principle of the Pangloss Collection is that a close association between documentation and research is highly profitable to both. This article presents the collections currently available; it also aims to convey a sense of the range of possibilities they offer to the scientific and speaker communities and to the general public.
yaʕ̓tmín cqwəlqwilt nixw, uł nixw, ul nixw, I need to speak more, and more, and more: Okanagan-Colville (Interior Salish) Indigenous second-language learners share our filmed narratives
way’, iskwíst, my name is, Sʔímlaʔxw, and I am from Penticton BC, Canada. kn sqilxw. I am a Syilx (Okanagan, Interior Salish) adult language learner. My cohort and I are midway in our language transformation to become proficient speakers. Our names are Prasát, Sʔímlaʔxw, C’ər̓tups, Xwnámx̌wnam, Staʔqwálqs, and our Elder, Sʕamtíc’aʔ. We created an adult immersion house, deep in Syilx territory, and lived and studied together for five months. We combined intensive curricular study, cutting-edge second-language acquisition techniques, filmed assessments, and immersion with our Elder. We emerged transformed—we are n’łəqwcin, clear speakers, speaking at an intermediate level. There has been very little written about assessment of Indigenous language teaching methods or Indigenous language speaking ability, and much less written about filmed learning and assessment. Three films were created in our language, nqilxwcn, and placed on YouTube. The films give primacy to our personal narratives, document and share our transformation, speaking abilities, grassroots language activism and learning methods. This paper describes the films, my cohort’s transformation, assesses our speaking ability, describes Paul Creek Language Association curriculum, and represents a contribution to Indigenous language teaching methods, assessment and nqilxwcn revitalization.
iskwíst Sʔímlaʔxw, kn t̓l snpintktn. kn sqilxw uł kn səcmipnwíłn nqilxwcn. axáʔ inq̓əy̓mín iscm̓aʔm̓áy. kwu kcilcəl̓kst kwu capsíw̓s, iʔ sqəlxwskwskwístət Prasát, Sʔímlaʔxw, C̓ər̓tups, X̌wnámx̌wnam, Staʔqwálqs, naʔł iʔ ƛ̓x̌aptət, Sʕamtíc̓aʔ. kwu kwliwt l̓ nqilxwn iʔ citxwtət cilkst iʔ x̌yałnəx̌w uł isck̓wúl̓ kaʔłís iʔ tə syaʔyáʔx̌aʔ. iʔ l̓ syaʔyáʔx̌aʔtət, caʔkw mi wikntp iʔ scm̓am̓áy̓aʔtət iʔ kłyankxó nqilxwcn iʔ sc̓ʕaʕ̓ác̓s, kwu cnqilxwcnm, kwu səck̓waʔkwúl̓m nqilxwcn, uł kwu x̌əstwilx iʔ scqwwʔqwʔáltət. xəc̓xac̓t iʔ sckwul̓tət, naxəmł ksxan iʔ tl̓ silíʔtət iʔ l̓ kiʔláwnaʔ iʔ sn̓ilíʔtns kwu ctixwlm. ʕapnáʔ kwu capsíw̓s uł kwu n̓łəqwcin. wtntím iʔ syaʔyáʔx̌aʔtət l̓ YouTube uł iʔ scx̌minktət caʔkw ksʕaysnwím iʔ scsm̓am̓áy̓tət, kłyankxó iʔ sck̓wul̓səlx, uł caʔkw cʔkin iʔ ł sk̓waʔkwúlm iʔ nqəlqílxwcn iʔ kscm̓am̓áy̓aʔx, uł caʔkw mi łxwl̓al aʔ nqəlqilxwcntət.
Beyond the Ancestral Code: Towards a Model for Sociolinguistic Language Documentation
Most language documentation efforts focus on capturing lexico-grammatical information on individual languages. Comparatively little effort has been devoted to considering a language’s sociolinguistic contexts. In parts of the world characterized by high degrees of multilingualism, questions surrounding the factors involved in language choice and the relationship between ‘communities’ and ‘languages’ are clearly of interest to documentary linguistics, and this paper considers these issues by reporting on the results of a workshop held on sociolinguistic documentation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over sixty participants from Africa and elsewhere discussed theoretical and methodological issues relating to the documentation of language in its social context. Relevant recommendations for projects wishing to broaden into the realm of sociolinguistic language documentation include: a greater emphasis on conversational data and the documentation of naturally occurring conversation; developing metadata conventions to allow for more nuanced descriptions of socio-cultural settings; encouraging teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration in order to extend the scope of sociolinguistic documentation; collecting sociolinguistic data which can inform language planning and policy; and creating opportunities for training in sociolinguistic documentation. Consideration of sociolinguistic language documentation also raises significant questions regarding the ways in which Western language ideologies, which have been especially prominent in shaping documentary agendas, may be unduly influencing documentary practice in other parts of the world.
Using Mixed Media Tools for Eliciting Discourse in Indigenous Languages
Prosody plays a vital role in communication, but is one of the most widely neglected topics in language documentation. This omission is doubly detrimental since intonation is unrecoverable from transcribed texts, the most prevalent data sources for many indigenous languages. One of the underlying reasons for the dearth of prosodic data is methodological. Modern technology has removed technical barriers to recording the appropriate data, but traditional methods of elicitation still inhibit accurate documentation of linguistic structures at or above the phrasal level. In addition, these methods do not facilitate the mobilization of linguistic documentation. In this paper, we present techniques that we have developed that address both these concerns: 1) eliciting prosodic data for theoretical analysis, and 2) producing linguistic materials that can be useful for educators and curriculum developers. Highlighting advantages and disadvantages, we compare traditional elicitation and text-gathering methods with two non-traditional methodologies using non-verbal stimuli. These two non-traditional methodologies are aimed at collecting: 1) spontaneous conversation (either unguided, or task-oriented), and 2) partly scripted conversation (aided by multimedia tools). The methodologies are illustrated with original fieldwork on focus and intonation in two related, endangered Interior Salish languages – Nlhe7kepmxcín (Thompson) and St’át’imcets (Lillooet).
Language Documentation in the Americas
In the last decades, the documentation of endangered languages has advanced greatly in the Americas. In this paper we survey the role that international funding programs have played in advancing documentation in this part of the world, with a particular focus on the growth of documentation in Brazil, and we examine some of the major opportunities and challenges involved in documentation in the Americas, focusing on participatory research models.
Collaboration in the Context of Teaching, Scholarship, and Language Revitalization: Experience from the Chatino Language Documentation Project
We describe our own experience of linguist-community collaboration over the last ten years in our Chatino Language Documentation Project, focused on the Chatino languages (Otomanguean; Oaxaca, Mexico). We relate episodes in the emergence and evolution of the collaboration between ourselves, and of the collaboration among ourselves and the Chatino communities with which we have worked. Our experience has several special features. First, our own collaboration began as native Chatino-speaking Ph.D. student and her teacher in a program focused on training speakers of Latin American indigenous languages in linguistics and anthropology, and developed into a larger collaboration among students and faculty where the student had a major leadership role. Second, our approach was documentary-descriptive and comparative, but it was also socially engaged or ‘activist,’, in that we sought to promote interest, awareness, and respect for the Chatino languages, to teach and support Chatino literacy, and to preserve and offer access to spoken Chatino, especially traditional verbal art. Our approach had synergies with local interests in writing and in honoring traditional speech ways, but it also led to conflicts over our roles as social actors, and the traditionally activist roles of indigenous teachers. Third, we experienced plasticity in the collaborative roles we played. Between ourselves, we were student and teacher, but also initiator and follower as we became engaged in revitalization. At the same time, the native speaker linguist found herself occupying a range of positions along a continuum from “insider” to “outsider” respect to her own community.
This article adds a voice from Amazonia to the reflective discussion on documentation projects designed within a ‘participatory’ or ‘collaborative’ paradigm of language research. It offers a critical assessment of one such documentation project carried out from 2007-2011 with the Kotiria and Wa’ikhana (East Tukano) language communities, who live in the remote Vaupés basin of the northwest Amazon. It examines aspects of the four-year project that most approximated the participative ideals that inspired it, including community input throughout all phases of the project, a ‘team-based’ approach grounded in local partnerships, and efforts to establish a more equitable division of power and responsibility, as well as greater self-determination in the organization of documentation activities. It also points out some of the difficulties encountered along the way and raises questions related to expectations, unforeseen consequences, and sustainability, questions that still remain to be answered.
Training in the Community-Collaborative Context: A Case Study
Emerging community-based methodologies call for collaboration with speech community members. Although motivated, community members may lack the tools or training to contribute actively. In response, many linguists deliver training workshops in documentation or preservation, while others train community members to record data. Although workshops address immediate needs, they are limited to what the individual linguist can teach. Speech community linguists may articulate goals beyond what one researcher can undertake. This creates a need for more advanced training than can be provided in the field. This paper uses a case study example to illustrate how the need for advanced training can be met through university-based workshops. It describes the process, challenges, and outcomes of bringing a nine-member team of Kari’nja (Cariban) speakers from Konomerume, Suriname to Eugene, Oregon for the 2010 Northwest Indian Language Institute’s (NILI) annual Summer Institute and the Institute on Field Linguistics and Language Documentation (InField). Lessons learned are situated in the context of community-collaborative methodologies, and a central role for training is articulated. This paper demonstrates that collaboration need not be limited to academic and speech communities, but rather can extend to a greater population of individuals who share an interest in promoting linguistic diversity.
Developing a Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages
The fluctuating fortunes of Northern Territory bilingual education programs in Australian languages and English have put at risk thousands of books developed for these
programs in remote schools. In an effort to preserve such a rich cultural and linguistic
heritage, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages project is establishing an open
access, online repository comprising digital versions of these materials. Using web
technologies to store and access the resources makes them accessible to the communities
of origin, the wider academic community, and the general public. The process
of creating, populating, and implementing such an archive has posed many interesting
technical, cultural and linguistic challenges, some of which are explored in this paper.
The size of Australian Indigenous language centres varies from small programs with a
single employment position up to large organisations which may involve several
linguists, a manager and a range of support staff. This article is based on the linguist’s
work at an organisation at the smaller end of the scale – Mirima Dawang Woorlabgerring
Language and Culture Centre (MDWg), which operates out of Kununurra in the
remote East Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Following a brief introduction to the
context and history of language work at MDWg, the author sheds light on typical
community expectations, which cover an array of different language-related and nonlinguistic
tasks. In a scenario where the linguist and coordinator roles are assigned to a
single person it becomes clear that the range of duties can be overwhelmingly diverse and
go beyond anything a linguist is exposed to during his/her academic studies. The article
proceeds by identifying a range of challenges for a linguist/coordinator, addressing issues
such as efficiency, balance, burnout and career planning. For each challenge, possible
solutions are offered, with the vision of turning challenge into opportunity. The article
concludes with a set of recommendations directed at various stakeholders in the work of
Indigenous language centres.
The role of linguists employed in Aboriginal community language centres requires three
considerations to be addressed by the language centres themselves, by the linguists and
by the organisations that prepare them: what is required of the linguist by language
centres; to what extent does the linguist's own skills, interests and ideology match what is
required by their position; and how the linguist’s capabilities can best be matched to the
requirements of the language centre. These three considerations are complex, in part
specific to each language centre, and can involve skills that are not immediately oriented
to, or transferable from, academic knowledge and skills. The sensitive and urgent nature
of language revitalisation means that high expectations are often placed on the linguist by
the language centre, which can lead to disappointment for all parties in various ways, and
could even compromise the effectiveness of the language revitalisation. This paper
attempts to critically address these three dimensions in relation to a Western Australian
language centre, focussing on a case study of a community-based languages exhibition
that took place in 2008. It describes the context of the language centre and then considers
the role of the linguist operating within a sociolinguistically-oriented theoretical and
methodological framework to revitalize languages, identifying different
conceptualisations of the role. The case study explores the range of requirements made of
the linguist during the languages exhibition project, and presents some reflections on the
role in that context.
A long-running collaboration between Kaurna people and linguists in South Australia
began in 1989 with a songbook. Following annual community workshops and the
establishment of teaching programs, the author embarked on a PhD to research historical
sources and an emerging modern language based on these sources. In response to
numerous requests for names, translations and information, together with Kaurna Elders
Lewis O’Brien and Alitya Rigney, the author and others formed Kaurna Warra Pintyandi
(KWP) in 2002. It is a monthly forum where researchers, and others interested in Kaurna
language, can meet with Kaurna people to discuss their concerns. KWP, based at the
University of Adelaide, is not incorporated and attendance of meetings is voluntary. The
committee has gained a measure of credibility and respect from the Kaurna community,
government departments and the public and has recently signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with the University of Adelaide. However, KWP and the author sit,
uneasily at times, at the intersection between the University and the community. This
paper explores the nature of collaboration between Kaurna people and researchers
through KWP in the context of reliance on historical documentation, much of which is
open to interpretation. Linguistics provides some of the skills needed for interpretation of
source materials. This is complemented by knowledge held by Kaurna people that is
known through oral history, spirituality and intuition.