User needs in language archives: Findings from interviews with language archive managers, depositors, and end-users
Mary Burke, Oksana L. Zavalina, Shobhana L. Chelliah & Mark E. Phillips pp. 1-24
Language archives, like other scholarly digital repositories, are built with two major audiences in mind. These are depositors of language data and various potential end-users of these materials: researchers (linguistics and others), language communities, students, educators, artists, etc. Being a relatively new phenomenon, language archives have made significant strides forward in providing access to digital language data. With the purpose of identifying the needs of language archive end-users (both met and currently unmet), our interdisciplinary team of linguists and information scientists interviewed language archive managers, end-users, and depositors. This study offers a first look into the decision-making processes and end-user experiences of these groups. To support the continued development of language archives, the exploratory study reported in this article provides empirical data on language archive user needs and supports some anecdotal evidence of known issues facing language archive end-users, depositors, and managers in primarily academic contexts.
Review of Creating orthographies for endangered languages
Bryn Hauk pp. 25-31
Two decades of sign language and gesture research in Australia: 2000–2020
Jennifer Green, Gabrielle Hodge, Barbara F. Kelly pp. 32-78
In this article, we provide an overview of the last twenty years of research on Indigenous sign languages, deaf community sign languages, co-speech gesture, and multimodal communication in the Australian context. From a global perspective, research on sign languages and on the gestures that normally accompany speech has been used as the basis for exploring different aspects of linguistic theory. Such research informs debates about the nature of the human language capacity and questions as to whether the diverse range of languages we see in the world share some universal patterns of organisation. We outline some of the theoretical and methodological achievements of scholars working in these interconnected disciplines in Australia, highlight the value of corpus-based approaches to linguistic research, draw attention to research on multimodality in the verbal arts, and discuss community-oriented research outputs guided by collaborative research practices. The article is accompanied by an on-line and editable bibliography of well over 300 publications that is accessible to researchers and others working in these related fields.
Building trust on Zoom: A workflow for language documentation via videoconferencing software
Karolina Grzech, Selena Tisalema Shaca pp. 79-97
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the capacity to conduct linguistic fieldwork in person. For many fieldworkers, this meant they needed to adapt, and do so urgently. This paper discusses a language documentation workflow based entirely on the online conferencing software Zoom, in which a linguist, external to the community, establishes a new project together with a native-speaker community member. The paper describes how such a working relationship can be built online, and accounts for all the steps of the authors’ Zoom-mediated workflow in detail allowing for their replication. It also offers a critical appraisal of this workflow from the perspectives of both the native speaker and the researcher. To conclude, the authors summarise all the conditions necessary for a workflow like this one to be successful.
Supporting linguistic data collection from afar: A mobile metadata system
Richard T. Griscom, pp. 98-119
The global COVID-19 pandemic has put into high relief the need for better remote communication and collaboration tools, but also serves as an opportunity to focus on building community capacity and promoting greater community agency in the language documentation process. This paper describes a method for remotely supporting and monitoring a language documentation project conducted by speakers, community activists, and/or academic researchers, through the use of a free and open-source data collection platform called KoBoToolbox. Rather than relying on access to audiovisual data, which are typically large and can be difficult to share remotely, the system is based on the creation of digital linguistic metadata with mobile devices linked to a secure central server, giving project leaders the ability to immediately access metadata as it is submitted, quickly generate summary reports and visualizations, and export metadata for further processing and archiving. The system is suitable for anyone who would like to integrate mobile metadata into a new or ongoing project and is able to provide the necessary training either remotely or in person.
Language ideology planning as central to successful revitalization projects
Sarah Shulist, Tania Granadillo, pp. 120-144
Linguistic and anthropological research has demonstrated that language ideologies play a complex role in contexts of language endangerment, as well as in revitalization initiatives. In this paper, we articulate some central ways in which these beliefs and interests can translate into significant barriers to successful language revitalization. Based on collaborative ethnographic fieldwork with Indigenous languages in North and South America, we propose a model for planning language ideologies as a practice that can be deliberately incorporated into revitalization efforts. Given the urgency of the situation facing many languages, we argue that treating language ideologies as requiring planning is necessary and offer preliminary suggestions about what this planning could look like by analyzing examples around the language ideology assemblages of language teaching and learning.
Knowing and remembering: Rethinking lexical recall as a measure of proficiency in endangered language communities
Daria Boltokova, Jessica Kantarovich, Lenore Grenoble, Maria Pupynina, pp. 145-167
This paper problematizes the assessment of speakers’ proficiency in endangered language communities. We focus in particular on processes of lexical production and elicitation as proxies for full proficiency assessment. Among linguists, it is standard to assess a speaker’s knowledge of specific lexical items in order to set a baseline for further data collection and research. Yet, as we argue in this paper, such tests can give the false impression that speakers do not know their language, since such tests do not distinguish between what speakers can recall in a particular moment and what they do not know because they did not acquire it. The endangered language context in particular calls for a more fine-tuned interpretation of lexical knowledge, given the high degree of idiolectal variation and lack of a community-based standard language. Drawing on fieldwork with Chukchi and Even Indigenous communities in northeastern Russia, we analyze lexical items that speakers claim to not remember. We then distinguish different reasons that are given for not remembering and consider their implications for speakers’ proficiency. Finally, we conclude with two recommendations for improving elicitation and language assessment tests.
Musicolinguistic documentation: Tone & tune in Tlahuapa Tù’un Sàví songs
Morgan Sleeper, Griselda Reyes Basurto, pp. 168-208
This study introduces a new methodology for integrating musical and linguistic data in language documentation, using ABC notation and open-source tools like ELAN and MuseScore. Designed for portability and exportability, and to facilitate both linguistic analysis and community-oriented material development, this methodology is used here to explore the link between linguistic tone and musical tune in Tlahuapa Tù’un Sàví, a Mixtec language of Guerrero, Mexico. Through a multimodal analysis of three Tlahuapa Tù’un Sàví songs, this study illuminates several interactions between tone and tune, including a strong preference for melodic lines to move in parallel with the tone melody of the lyrics and associations between musical ornamentation and specific tonemes. The results of this study not only increase our understanding of the tonal system of Tlahuapa Tù’un Sàví and its interaction with musical style but also help illustrate the rich potential of musical data in linguistic research and documentation. More than simply language data with a melody, the combination of music and language in song offers a unique opportunity for analysis not otherwise possible, and the methodologies demonstrated here aim to make this combination as accessible as possible for researchers, archivers, and community members alike.
Networks of support: How online resources are built, maintained, and adapted for community language revitalization needs at FirstVoices
Bridget Chase, Kyra Borland, pp. 209-227
FirstVoices is a technology-centered organization that works with forty-seven Indigenous language communities around British Columbia. One of its top priorities is providing high-quality technical assistance as well as accessible annual training sessions for the platform. This requires nuanced systems of support and adaptability within the methods we use. Over the last two years, its team has grown and modified its procedures with the goal of best serving the unique needs of different communities. With nearly 1,000 support emails in its Service Desk system since June 2018 and two years of regional training – one in-person, one entirely online – the team has tracked trends within technology-centered language requests. In this paper, we will conduct a mixed methods analysis of all the support tickets the team has received, as well as an analysis of the qualitative and quantitative feedback from training sessions in order to break down the patterns and themes that exist. We will also discuss the process of creating and maintaining a wiki-style Knowledge Base, the variety of techniques employed to assist remote users, and the potential for future growth in FirstVoices’ networks of support. Our intentions with this paper are to provide insight for community groups, language organizations, and linguists alike around capacity-building opportunities in the field of digital language mobilization. As FirstVoices continues to grow and as technology becomes even more essential within the realm of language revitalization, it is crucial that we make note of these trends and prepare ourselves to adapt to the digital-based needs of language communities.
Centering relationality in online Indigenous language learning: Reflecting on the creation and use of Rosetta Stone Chickasaw
Kari A. B. Chew, Lokosh (Joshua D. Hinson), Juliet Morgan, pp. 228-258
Drawing on the authors’ experiences developing Rosetta Stone Chickasaw (RSC), an asynchronous online Chikashshanompa’ (Chickasaw language) course, this article shares examples of how relationality is enacted in online Indigenous language learning. We discuss the RSC interface and ways that it created opportunities and barriers to centering Indigenous and Chikasha (Chickasaw) relational epistemologies in which people are related to one another, the land, the spirits, and to the language itself. Our reflections on relationality in RSC are guided by the following questions: What relationships are required to create an online Indigenous language course? How do people create and strengthen relationships in online education spaces? How can online language work be re-emplaced in off-line relationships? Sharing examples from RSC, we consider relationality in video, audio, images, written instruction, and assessment. We conclude by returning to our guiding questions, offering our reflections and encouragement to others who may undertake similar work.
This paper examines social interactions between caregivers and youths at two language revitalization camps of Northern Pomo, a dormant language of Northern California. Drawing from video- and audio-recorded interactions at the two camps, I examine the discursive strategies caregivers use while collaborating with youths in joint language-learning activities. Because some of the activities rely on the use of digital tools, I also investigate whether the use of digital technology has any effect on these strategies and on social interactions more generally. By employing discourse analytic techniques, I find that youths often position themselves in the more powerful role of teacher while positioning caregivers in the role of student regardless of whether digital technology is used. The key insight is that caregivers, who act as agents of primary socialization, acquiesce in the roles that are imposed on them. They do this by surrendering some of their own authority to create a space that helps to promote youth empowerment. Thus, inversions of positions – and power – may be seen as a welcoming and, perhaps, important aspect of the language revitalization endeavor.
Linking endangerment databases and descriptive linguistics: An assessment of the use of terms relating to language endangerment in grammars
Roberto Zariquiey, Mónica Arakaki, Javier Vera, Guido Torres-Orihuela, Claret Cuba-Raime, Carlos Barrientos, Aracelli García, Adriano Ingunza, Harald Hammarström, pp. 290-318
The world harbours a diversity of some 6,500 mutually unintelligible languages. As has been increasingly observed by linguists, many minority languages are becoming endangered and will be lost forever if not documented. The increased urgency has led to the development of several global endangerment databases and a more fine-grained understanding of the language endangerment progression as well as its possible reversal. In the present paper, we explore the terminological correlates of this development as found in the descriptive linguistic literature, using a corpus of over 10,000 digitized grammatical descriptions. Comparing this with existing endangerment databases, we find that simply counting terms related to endangerment does signal endangerment, but the degree of endangerment is more difficult to assess from grammatical descriptions. The label endangered seems to be an umbrella term that covers different situations ranging from moribund languages with less than ten speakers to minority languages with several thousand speakers. For many languages considered endangered in existing databases, explicit terms to this effect cannot be found in their descriptions. The discrepancy is due to incompleteness of the searchterm set, gaps in the literature, and projected rather than observed information in the databases. Our explorations illustrate the potential for database curation assisted by computational searches both to maintain accuracy of the databases and to investigate assumed language endangerment. Future work includes a larger cloud of search terms, usage of term frequencies, and prescreening of descriptive literature for the existence of a relevant section. From the perspective of descriptive linguistics, this study calls for a more careful correlation between the language endangerment indexes, as developed in the global endangerment databases, and the treatment of the endangerment status of individual languages in descriptive grammars.
Maya-kwobabiny: Re-embedding language at Kepa Kurl, Western Australia
Clint Bracknell, Amy Budrikis, Roma Yibiyung Winmar, pp. 319-340
This paper describes a Nyungar language revitalisation project in the southern region of Western Australia conducted in partnership between a university research team and the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation. It discusses how linguistic analysis of historical Nyungar documentation was essential to addressing community aims of re-embedding the language into the community, developing and using pedagogical resources, and exploring new domains for language use. In particular, this paper focuses on the community’s desire for the reclamation of a dialectal flavour of Nyungar that is distinctive to the Esperance region, and the factors contributing to a successful partnership between the researchers and the community organisation in terms of capacity-building, leadership, and sustainability.
Experiences with remote linguistic-ethnobiological fieldwork on bird names in the Qaqet language of Papua New Guinea
Henrike Frye, Shirley Balar, Aung Si, pp. 341-363
Language-focused ethnobiological research can be a challenging endeavour, even when research teams are able to access their field sites and talk to consultants in person. The challenges are compounded when research must be carried out remotely. In this paper, we present our experiences in carrying out remote linguistic-ethnobiological research on bird names in the Qaqet language spoken in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, with the participation of a locally based research assistant. We discuss the numerous issues faced by the researchers and the assistant and the steps we took collaboratively to overcome these issues. Ultimately, changes were required to the stimulus materials, interview protocol, and consultant selection procedure; these changes were implemented stepwise over a series of four field trips. The data obtained in the process provide the first reliable identifications of culturally important bird species in Qaqet, along with ethnographic reports of the role these birds play in Qaqet society and culture. This, and other preliminary findings on phenomena such as interindividual variation, has indicated fruitful avenues for research, following the end of the current global crisis.
Type right: Examining the underlying causes of common typeface and font errors for Indigenous orthographies, and a possible path forward
Julia Schillo, Mark Turin, pp. 364-398
Despite considerable typographical innovations over the past twenty years that have enabled and facilitated typing capabilities for many Indigenous language orthographies, typographical errors continue to disproportionately affect Indigenous languages. These include errors in glyph shapes, which impact legibility, and issues with glyph positioning, which impact readability. In this article, the glottalization accent mark is used to demonstrate how such errors manifest in various widely used typefaces. Through a case study of the glottalization accent mark, we identify the root causes of common typographical errors, stemming from the Unicode Standard, which provides the code structure for digital typing, and from the typeface design methodology used to create most of the typefaces available to Indigenous language communities. Many Unicode characters used by Indigenous orthographies lack rigorous and precise semantic definitions, leading to inconsistencies in glyphs created through a language-agnostic typeface design process that does not require designers to be familiar with the specific orthographies for which they design glyphs. To address these issues, we recommend that Unicode revisit the character semantics of Indigenous orthographic elements to create more robust semantic definitions and that typeface designers use a community-partnered design methodology that engages with the goals of language reclamation and revitalization.