Vol. 15 (2021)

Notes from the Field: Wisconsin Walloon Documentation and Orthography
Kelly Biers & Ellen Osterhaus, pp. 1-29

Wisconsin Walloon is a heritage dialect of a threatened language in the langue d’oïl family that originated in southern Belgium and expanded to northeastern Wisconsin, USA in the mid-1850s. Walloon-speaking immigrants formed an isolated agricultural community, passing on and using the language for the next two generations until English became the dominant functional language. Although younger generations today have not learned the language, there remain enough Walloon speakers as well as Belgian descendants interested in their linguistic heritage to have generated community support for a Walloon documentation and conservation project. In this paper, we report on the results of over three years of collaboration between university researchers, students, and community members to document, study, and promote the language for the benefit of both scholars and community. We provide a description of the language, collaborative documentation efforts, and the development of community resources, including a phonetically-accessible Walloon orthography. We conclude with an outlook on future work with an eye toward increased community-led efforts.

What’s your sign for TORTILLA? Documenting lexical variation in Yucatec Maya Sign Languages
Josefina Safar, pp. 30-74

In this paper, I discuss methodological and ethical issues that arose in the process of documenting lexical variation in Yucatec Maya Sign Languages (YMSLs). YMSLs are indigenous sign languages used by deaf and hearing people in Yucatec Maya villages with a high incidence of deafness in the peninsula of Yucatán, Mexico. The documentation of rural sign languages such as YMSLs shares many characteristics with research on urban sign languages as well as spoken minority languages, but it also comes with a range of specific challenges. Elicitation materials, research procedures, and ethical decisions need to be adapted to specific local and cultural requirements while trying to maintain a level of comparability with previous studies. I will illustrate this process of negotiation by providing a detailed account of how I developed stimulus materials for lexical elicitation, obtained informed consent from the participants, and established ways of collaboration with community members in the Yucatec Maya Sign Language Documentation Project. Furthermore, I will present first results about lexical variation in YMSLs.

Living Language, Resurgent Radio: A Survey of Indigenous Language Broadcasting Initiatives
David Danos & Mark Turin, pp. 75-152

For a demise that has been predicted for over 60 years, radio is a remarkably resilient communications medium, and one that warrants deeper examination as a vehicle for the revitalization of historically marginalized and Indigenous languages. 

Radio has not been eroded by the rise of new media, whether that be television, video, or newer multimodal technologies associated with the internet. To the contrary, communities are leveraging the formerly analogue medium of radio in transformative ways, breathing new life into old transistors, and using radio for the transmission of stories, song, and conversation. In this contribution, we highlight effective and imaginative uses of radio for Indigenous language reclamation through a series of case studies, and we offer a preliminary analysis of the structural conditions that can both support and impede developments in Indigenous-language radio programming. 

The success of radio for Indigenous language programming is thanks to the comparatively low cost of operations, its asynchronous nature that supports programs to be consumed at any time (through repeats, podcasts, downloads, and streaming services) and the unusual, even unique, quality of radio being both engaging yet not all-consuming, meaning that a listener can be actively involved in another activity at the same time.

Ticuna (tca) language documentation: A guide to materials in the California Language Archive
Amalia Skilton, pp. 153-189

Ticuna (ISO: tca) is a language isolate spoken in the northwestern Amazon Basin (Brazil, Colombia, Peru). Ticuna has more speakers than almost all other Indigenous Amazonian languages and – unlike most languages of the area – is still learned by children. Yet academic linguists have given it relatively little research attention. Therefore, to raise the profile of this areally important language, I offer a guide to three collections of Ticuna language materials held in the California Language Archive. These materials are extensive, including over 1,396 hours of recordings – primarily of child language and everyday conversations between adults – and 33 hours of transcriptions. To contextualize the materials, I provide background on the Ticuna language and people; the research projects which produced the materials; the participants who appear in them; and the ethical and permissions issues involved in collecting them. I then discuss the nature and scope of the materials, showing how the content of each collection motivated collection-specific choices about recording, transcription, organization in the archive, and metadata. Last, I outline how other researchers could draw on the collections for comparative analysis.