Articles

We publish various feeds of the contents of both articles in LD&C and of LD&C Special Publications. * Note that media embedded in some articles may only play when read in Adobe Reader.

A list of items in the past five volumes of LD&C (via RSS feed from the ScholarSpace repository)

Volume 15

  • Virtual Frisian: A comparison of language use in North and West Frisian virtual communities - June 1, 2021
    Abstract: Social networking sites have become ubiquitous in our daily communicative exchanges, which has brought about new platforms of identification and opened possibilities that were out of reach for many minoritized communities. As they represent an increasing percentage of the media we consume, these sites have been considered crucial for revitalization processes. However, the growing importance of social media may also pose a problem for minoritized languages, as the need for communication with a wider audience seems to require the use of a language of wider communication. One way in which this apparent need for a global language can be avoided is by creating virtual communities where the minoritized languages can be used without competition, a virtual breathing space. This study analyzes language practices of eight communities: four North Frisian and four West Frisian virtual communities. The analysis focuses on the languages used in each community, the topics discussed, as well as the status of the minoritized language in the community. A total of 1,127 posts are analyzed to determine whether these communities function as breathing spaces, the factors that may foster or prevent the emergence of these spaces, and the similarities and differences between these two sociolinguistic contexts.
  • Collecting and annotating corpora for three under-resourced languages of France: Methodological issues - June 1, 2021
    Abstract: In contrast to French, the vast majority of regional languages of France can be considered as under-resourced. In this article, we present the results of a research project aiming to produce annotated resources for three regional languages of France: Alsatian, Occitan, and Picard. These languages cover three different language families (Germanic and two subfamilies of Romance, Oïl and Oc languages) and different sociolinguistic situations. Yet, they all face issues common to many under-resourced languages: lack of human and financial resources and presence of geolinguistic variation. The originality of this project is that it brought together researchers from different fields (sociolinguistics, descriptive linguistics, dialectology, natural language processing, digital humanities) to work together towards the common goal of developing annotated corpora for Alsatian, Occitan, and Picard. This created a favorable and stimulating working environment which could not have been achieved had different research groups worked independently, each on a single language. This article details the annotation process, with a special focus on the delimitation of the tokens and the definition of the part-of-speech tags.
  • Community Archiving of Ethnic Groups in Thailand - May 1, 2021
    Abstract: This article presents the research process of the project “The Ethnic Group Digital Archive Project: Promoting the protection and preservation of language and culture diversity in Thailand”. This project involved the development of a local digital archive website for the ethnic groups of Thailand to archive, preserve, and transmit their knowledge of languages and cultures to their younger generations and those interested. The core objective of this digital archive development was the implementation of the archive website with uncomplicated accessibility and simple and interesting design that serves the language documentation purpose. The digital archive output includes collections from 18 ethnic groups in Thailand, containing 385 bundles of legacy and fieldwork data obtained by means of video, audio, text, image, and ELAN file. Despite the low number of researchers working on language documentation and archiving, the research team managed to expand both national and international networks working in this particular field of study. This serves as an opportunity for scholars and speaker communities in Thailand to recognize the importance of local knowledge preservation and transmission, and the availability of the digital archive is a practical way to support sustainable data preservation and accessibility in the future.
  • #KeepOurLanguagesStrong: Indigenous Language Revitalization on Social Media during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic - April 1, 2021
    Abstract: Indigenous communities, organizations, and individuals work tirelessly to #KeepOurLanguagesStrong. The COVID-19 pandemic was potentially detrimental to Indigenous language revitalization (ILR) as this mostly in-person work shifted online. This article shares findings from an analysis of public social media posts, dated March through July 2020 and primarily from Canada and the US, about ILR and the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team, affiliated with the NEȾOLṈEW̱ “one mind, one people” Indigenous language research partnership at the University of Victoria, identified six key themes of social media posts concerning ILR and the pandemic, including: 1. language promotion, 2. using Indigenous languages to talk about COVID-19, 3. trainings to support ILR, 4. language education, 5. creating and sharing language resources, and 6. information about ILR and COVID-19. Enacting the principle of reciprocity in Indigenous research, part of the research process was to create a short video to share research findings back to social media. This article presents a selection of slides from the video accompanied by an in-depth analysis of the themes. Written about the pandemic, during the pandemic, this article seeks to offer some insights and understandings of a time during which much is uncertain. Therefore, this article does not have a formal conclusion; rather, it closes with ideas about long-term implications and future research directions that can benefit ILR.
  • Ticuna (tca) language documentation: A guide to materials in the California Language Archive - March 1, 2021
    Abstract: 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.
  • Language use and attitudes as indicators of subjective vitality: The Iban of Sarawak, Malaysia - March 1, 2021
    Abstract: The study examined the subjective ethnolinguistic vitality of an Iban community in Sarawak, Malaysia based on their language use and attitudes. A survey of 200 respondents in the Song district was conducted. To determine the objective ethnolinguistic vitality, a structural analysis was performed on their sociolinguistic backgrounds. The results show the Iban language dominates in family, friendship, transactions, religious, employment, and education domains. The language use patterns show functional differentiation into the Iban language as the “low language” and Malay as the “high language”. The respondents have positive attitudes towards the Iban language. The dimensions of language attitudes that are strongly positive are use of the Iban language, Iban identity, and intergenerational transmission of the Iban language. The marginally positive dimensions are instrumental use of the Iban language, social status of Iban speakers, and prestige value of the Iban language. Inferential statistical tests show that language attitudes are influenced by education level. However, language attitudes and use of the Iban language are not significantly correlated. By viewing language use and attitudes from the perspective of ethnolinguistic vitality, this study has revealed that a numerically dominant group assumed to be safe from language shift has only medium vitality, based on both objective and subjective evaluation.
  • Playing with Language: Three Language Games in the Gulf of Guinea - March 1, 2021
    Abstract: We present a description and an analysis of three related language games in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea: Fa d’Ambô’s Fa do Vesu, Lung’Ie’s Faa di Vesu, and São Tomé and Príncipe Portuguese’s P-language. We show how these language games can be used to investigate the linguistic features of their main languages and as learning resources for second language learners. First, we defend the common origin of these language games and that they emerged from contact with Portuguese settlers’ Língua do Pê’s varieties. Second, we discuss phonological issues, such as syllable structure, focusing on the loci of onglides, offglides, syllabic nasals, and word prosody. Finally, we discuss how these ludlings can help speakers, learners, and linguists perceive phonological properties as well as the contribution of describing and analyzing language games for language documentation.
  • What’s your sign for TORTILLA? Documenting lexical variation in Yucatec Maya Sign Languages - February 1, 2021
    Abstract: 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 - February 1, 2021
    Abstract: 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.
  • Notes from the Field: Wisconsin Walloon Documentation and Orthography - January 1, 2021
    Abstract: 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.

Volume 14

  • Review of LexiRumah 3.0.0 - December 1, 2020
  • Linguistics and Political Science: A Strategy for Interdisciplinary and Ethical Research Methodology on Language Endangerment and Political Conflict - November 1, 2020
    Abstract: We propose that linguists and political scientists develop an interdisciplinary and ethical research strategy for studying the relationships between language endangerment and political conflict. A leading cause of language endangerment is political violence driven by outside actors who expropriate land, extract resources, and displace individuals, many of whom reside in communities that speak endangered languages. Most language documentation projects, however, do not address the political landscape that causes the conflict, whether it is history, language policy, conflict over natural resources and ethno-religious identities, or absent and co-opted governmental institutions experienced by the communities in question. At the same time, political scientists have developed models to explain and predict the political conflict and violence that threaten entire communities and can also explain why indigenous communities are particularly at risk of being harmed by this type of violence. We suggest that an interdisciplinary strategy that combines some of the large N data analysis strengths of political science with the qualitative, community-driven research of linguists can best help scholars understand the determinants of language loss; conduct such research ethically, and help utilize the fruits of this research to support and empower endangered language communities.
  • Pre-Revitalization Language Assessment - October 1, 2020
    Abstract: Testing is increasingly recognized as a vital part of language revitalization. I demonstrate here that assessment of linguistic knowledge should also be part of the planning process that precedes the creation of a revitalization program. I take as an example Jejueo, the language of Korea’s Jeju Island. Whereas previously published work contradicted UNESCO’s conclusion that the language is critically endangered, a test that I designed to elicit basic vocabulary and verbal patterns from 224 participants (from elementary school students to senior citizens) revealed otherwise. Alarming deficits in basic knowledge of the language were uncovered that both confirmed UNESCO’s classification of the language and identified the particular areas in which remediation is required.
  • Talking about strings: The language of string figure-making in a Sepik society in Papua New Guinea - October 1, 2020
    Abstract: The practice of making string figures, often called cat’s cradle, can be found all over the world and is particularly widespread in Melanesia. It has been studied by anthropologists, linguists and mathematicians. For the latter, the ordered series of moves and the resultant string figures represent cognitive processes that form part of a practice of recreational mathematics. Modern anthropology is interested in the social and cultural aspects of string figures, including their associations with other cultural practices, with the local mythology and songs. Despite this clear link to language, few linguists have studied string figures, and those who have, have mainly focused on the songs and formulaic texts that accompany them. Based on a systematic study of string figures among the Awiakay, the inhabitants of Kanjimei village in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, with six hours of transcribed video recordings of the practice, this paper argues that studying string figure-making can be an important aspect of language documentation – not just through the recording and analysis of the accompanying oral literature, but also as a tool for documenting other speech genres through recordings of the naturalistic speech that surrounds string figure-making performances. In turn, analysing the language associated with string figure-making offers valuable insights into the meaning of string figures as understood by their makers.
  • Supporting small languages together: The history and impact of the International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation series - October 1, 2020
    Abstract: The International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation series, or ICLDC, has, since its inception in 2009, become the flagship conference for the field of language documentation. Every two years, conference attendees gather at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to share their experiences working on diverse topics related to the preservation of underrepresented languages worldwide. Attendees come from a range of backgrounds: Indigenous language communities, language activism organizations, K–12 school systems, as well as students and faculty from colleges and universities. They represent dozens of countries and hundreds of languages, and they have one goal in mind: supporting small languages together. In this paper, we trace the history of the ICLDC series since the first iteration and discuss the scope of its impact on the field of language documentation and conservation according to conference attendees. We also look ahead to the changes that the covid-19 pandemic will bring to the structure of the conference in 2021 and beyond.
  • Keeping it real: Video data in language documentation and language archiving - September 1, 2020
    Abstract: Working with video data is on its way to becoming standard practice in language documentation. However, documenters looking on the web for guidance on standards and best practices for archiving audio-visual data encounter a vast and potentially confusing diversity of information. Unfortunately, a lot of information on archiving video is concerned with digitized film stock and not with the type of video data produced in language documentation. This paper presents relevant standards and established community best practices in a short and realistic manner, pledging to keep things real.
  • Archival description for language documentation collections - September 1, 2020
    Abstract: Users of digital language archives face a number of barriers when trying to discover and reuse the materials preserved in the digital collections created by current language documentation projects. These barriers include sparse descriptive metadata throughout many collections and the prevalence of audio-video materials that are impervious to text-based search. Users could more easily evaluate, navigate, and use such a collection if it contained a guide that contextualized it, summarized its contents, and helped users identify and locate items within it. This article will discuss the importance of thorough collection descriptions and finding aids by synthesizing guidelines and best practices for archival description created for traditional archives and adapting these to the structure and makeup of today’s digital language documentation collections. To facilitate the iterative description of growing collections, the checklist of information to include is presented in three groups of descending priority.
  • A collaborative development of workshops for teachers of Great Basin languages using principles of decolonization and language reclamation - August 1, 2020
    Abstract: The project described in this paper adopts a decolonization-oriented, reclamation-based approach to language maintenance and revitalization. Designed and implemented collaboratively with members of the local university and tribal communities, the project involves a series of five two-hour professional development workshops for teachers of Great Basin Indigenous languages spoken in and around Northern Nevada: Numu (Northern Paiute), Wašiw (Washo), and Newe (Western Shoshone). The primary goal of the project was building capacity to support language teachers by facilitating presentations, discussions, and activities that contribute to the sharing of ideas and best practices for the promotion of local languages. These workshops were preceded by an information-gathering session to determine the interests and needs of language teachers, which resulted in the selection of workshop topics: decolonization, teaching techniques, linguistics, Great Basin history and culture, and media/recording. A diverse set of facilitators and participants were involved with the project, most of whom were members of local tribal communities. Throughout the project, the organizers remained mindfully focused on the notions of decolonization, capacity-building, and respect for Indigenous knowledge.
  • SLEXIL: User-centred software for community language documentation - August 1, 2020
    Abstract: SLEXIL (Software Linking ELAN XML to Illuminated Language) is a web application designed to allow users to create animated HTML files from time-aligned transcriptions made in ELAN. Unlike earlier projects with similar goals, SLEXIL is a zero-installation web app developed strictly on user-centred principles, designed with the goal of transferring as much of the technical expertise needed for the process away from the user and onto the maintainers and developers of the software. While SLEXIL itself is rather modest and built for a very specific purpose, we feel that its design is proof of concept for the next generation of user-centred software applications developed for linguists, community language activists, teachers, and others involved in Indigenous and Minority Language Sustainability.
  • Determinants of phonetic word duration in ten language documentation corpora: Word frequency, complexity, position, and part of speech - July 1, 2020
    Abstract: This paper explores the application of quantitative methods to study the effect of various factors on phonetic word duration in ten languages. Data on most of these languages were collected in fieldwork aiming at documenting spontaneous speech in mostly endangered languages, to be used for multiple purposes, including the preservation of cultural heritage and community work. Here we show the feasibility of studying processes of online acceleration and deceleration of speech across languages using such data, which have not been considered for this purpose before. Our results show that it is possible to detect a consistent effect of higher frequency of words leading to faster articulation even in the relatively small language documentation corpora used here. We also show that nouns tend to be pronounced more slowly than verbs when controlling for other factors. Comparison of the effects of these and other factors shows that some of them are difficult to capture with the current data and methods, including potential effects of cross-linguistic differences in morphological complexity. In general, this paper argues for widening the cross-linguistic scope of phonetic and psycholinguistic research by including the wealth of language documentation data that has recently become available.
  • Supplementary material to Determinants of phonetic word duration in ten language documentation corpora: Word frequency, complexity, position, and part of speech - July 1, 2020
  • Finding Hawu: Legacy data, finding aids and the Alan T. Walker Digital Language Collection - July 1, 2020
    Abstract: Digital language data provide accessible and enduring records for world languages. While legacy data collections may offer new insights into small or endangered languages, their digitization can raise practical challenges in terms of navigating vast databases of files with limited metadata. This paper demonstrates the practical benefits of creating a finding aid and inventory for a large collection of legacy data which has been converted to digital format. In so doing, it also provides a guide to the Alan T. Walker Collection for Lii Hawu, ‘the Hawu language’ of Eastern Indonesian (also known variously as Havu, Sawu, Savu, and Sabu language). A guide to the Walker Collection was needed in order to more easily navigate its digital contents in PARADISEC (Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures). The Collection includes approximately 13 hours of digitized audio-cassette recordings and 7,425 digitized images from 43 scanned handwritten notebooks. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of the process of working with digitized legacy data and the benefits derived from creating a finding aid and inventory for such data.
  • What is “natural” speech? Comparing free narratives and Frog stories in Indonesia - May 1, 2020
    Abstract: While there is overall consensus that narratives obtained by means of visual stimuli contain less natural language than free narratives, it has been less clear how the naturalness of a narrative can be measured in a crosslinguistically meaningful way. Here this question is addressed by studying the differences between free narratives and narratives elicited using the Frog story in two languages of eastern Indonesia, Alorese (Austronesian) and Teiwa (Papuan). Both these languages are not commonly written, and belong to families that are typologically distinct. We compare eight speakers telling free narratives and Frog stories, investigating the lexical density (noun-pronoun ratio, noun-clause ratio, noun-verb ratio), narrative style (the use of direct speech reports and tail-head linkage), as well as speech rate. We find significant differences between free and prompted narratives along these three dimensions, and suggest that they can be used to measure the naturalness of speech in oral narratives more generally.
  • Contrasting statistical indicators of Māori language revitalization: Conversational ability, speaking proficiency, and first language - May 1, 2020
    Abstract: Is it possible to track the revitalization of the Māori language statistically? Different large-scale statistical collections (censuses and surveys) in New Zealand effectively have different definitions of speaker because they ask different questions. This paper compares trends in numbers of Māori speakers as estimated from responses to questions about conversational ability, first language, and level of speaking proficiency, with particular reference to the 2013 Census and Te Kupenga (Māori social survey) 2013. One might expect estimates based on these responses to align closely, but they do not. This paper explores the relationships between the different estimates for different birth cohorts. Data on first language from at least four surveys provide strong evidence of a resurgence in intergenerational language transmission, which is not clearly apparent from the other indicators. Patterns of response to conversational ability and speaking proficiency questions are found to vary according to first language and birth cohort. It is argued that the apparent inconsistencies between the indicators reflect the real complexity of revitalization processes, as well as varying interpretations of the language questions, and that the New Zealand census language question on conversational ability is of questionable value as an indicator for tracking Māori language revitalization.
  • A method comparison analysis examining the relationship between linguistic tone, melodic tune, and sung performances of children’s songs in Chicahuaxtla Triqui: Findings and implications for documentary linguistics and indigenous language communities - March 1, 2020
    Abstract: Linguistic tones play an important role in expressing lexical and grammatical meaning in tone languages. A small change in the pitch of a word can result in an entirely different meaning. A logical question for those who document tone languages is whether or not singers preserve linguistic tone when singing and if so, to what degree? I begin by providing an overview of research in documentary linguistics that examines the interrelationship between linguistic tone and melody in tone languages. While the majority of articles have focused on Asian and African languages, there is only one investigation by Pike (1939) that examined the relationship between tone and tune in an unspecified variety of Mixtec, an Otomanguean language. In order to further our understanding of the tone-tune relationship, especially with regard to Otomanguean languages, I use three separate procedures for looking at the interrelationship between tone and tune in spoken, sung, and played performances of two popular children’s songs in Chicahuaxtla Triqui. While the first experiment yielded a non-significant relationship between linguistic tone and note transitions in the musical scores, the second and third experiments showed that the pitch traces of the spoken and played performances of the songs both relate to and perhaps influence pitch transitions and pitch transition differentials in the sung performances. The overall finding is that the song melody appears to exert a greater influence on the pitch tracings of the sung performances than does linguistic tone as measured in the spoken performances of the songs. With regard to experimental studies examining tone and tune, this study suggests that a set of well-defined prosodic features, such as overall pitch range, average F_0, F_0 for individual tones, and the difference between adjacent tones as measured in Hz, need to be considered when comparing tone to melodic tune. Simply correlating the correspondence or directionality of linguistic tones to that of the note transitions in musical scores does not appear to be promising nor sensitive enough to reveal the true interrelationship between tone and tune. This article ends with a discussion of the benefits of documenting songs in tone languages for linguists in addition to the advantages of teaching music to children of indigenous language communities.
  • Child-directed language – and how it informs the documentation and description of the adult language - March 1, 2020
    Abstract: Language documentation efforts are most often concerned with the adult language and usually do not include the language used by and with children. Essential parts of the natural linguistic behaviour of communities thus remain undocumented, and a growing body of literature explores what language documentation, language maintenance, and language revitalization have to gain by including child language and child-directed language. This paper adds a methodological perspective to the discussion, arguing that child language and child-directed language constitute data types that can inform our understanding of the adult language. For reasons of feasibility, the paper focuses on child-directed language only. Presenting data from two on-going language acquisition projects (Qaqet from Papua New Guinea and Dëne Sųłıné from Canada), we illustrate how this data type provides insights into the metalinguistic knowledge of adult speakers. After an introduction to child-directed language, three case studies on the topics of variation sets, clarification processes, and discourse context are exemplified from both languages and related to our understanding of the adult language. Focusing on the potential of this data type, this paper argues in favour of extending our documentation efforts to events involving children.
  • Documentation of Lakurumau: Making the case for one more language in Papua New Guinea - March 1, 2020
    Abstract: This paper provides an introduction to Lakurumau, a previously undescribed and undocumented Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea. The first part of the paper is a guide to the Lakurumau documentation corpus, deposited in the ELAR archive. The participants and the content of the deposit, the technology used for recording, and the ethical protocols followed in the construction of the corpus are discussed. In the second part, a brief grammatical description of Lakurumau is presented, providing morpho-syntactic and sociolinguistic evidence in support of the classification of Lakurumau as an independent language, and some directions for future work are outlined.
  • LingView: A Web Interface for Viewing FLEx and ELAN Files - February 1, 2020
    Abstract: This article presents LingView (https://github.com/BrownCLPS/LingView), a web interface for viewing FLEx and ELAN files, optionally time-synced with corresponding audio or video files. While FLEx and ELAN are useful tools for many linguists, the resulting annotated files are often inaccessible to the general public. Here, we describe a data pipeline for combining FLEx and ELAN files into a single JSON format which can be displayed on the web. While this software was originally built as part of the A’ingae Language Documentation Project to display a corpus of materials in A’ingae, the software was designed to be a flexible resource for a variety of different communities, researchers, and materials.
  • Quantifying written ambiguities in tone languages: A comparative study of Elip, Mbelime, and Eastern Dan - February 1, 2020
    Abstract: Whether tone should be represented in writing, and if so how much, is one of the most formidable challenges facing those developing orthographies for tone languages. Various researchers have attempted to quantify the level of written ambiguity in a language if tone is not marked, but these contributions are not easily comparable because they use different measurement criteria. This article presents a first attempt to develop a standardized instrument and evaluate its potential. The method is exemplified using four narrative texts translated into Elip, Mbelime, and Eastern Dan. It lists all distinct written word forms that are homographs if tone is not marked, discarding repeated words, homophony, and polysemy, as well as pairs that never share the same syntactic slot. It treats lexical and grammatical tone separately, while acknowledging that these two functions often coincide. The results show that the level of written ambiguity in Elip is weighted towards the grammar, while in Mbelime many ambiguities occur at the point where lexical and grammatical tone coincide. As for Eastern Dan, with its profusion of nominal and verbal minimal pairs, not to mention pronouns, case markers, predicative markers, and other parts of speech, the level of written ambiguity if tone is not marked is by far the highest of the three languages. The article ends with some suggestions of how the methodology might be refined, by reporting some experimental data that provide only limited proof of the need to mark tone fully, and by describing how full tone marking has survived recent spelling reforms in all three languages.
  • Notes from the Field: Inagta Alabat: A moribund Philippine language, with supporting audio - January 1, 2020
    Abstract: Arguably the most critically-endangered language in the Philippines, Inagta Alabat (also known as Inagta Lopez and Inagta Villa Espina) is spoken by fewer than ten members of the small Agta community on the island of Alabat off the northern coast of Quezon Province on the large northern Philippine island of Luzon, and by an even smaller number of Agta further east in the province. This short sketch provides some brief sociolinguistic notes on the group, followed by an overview of its phoneme system, grammatical subsystems, and verb system. Over 800 audio recordings accompany the article, including 100 sentences, three short narratives, and a list of over 200 basic vocabulary items.
  • Review of Activating the heart: Storytelling, knowledge sharing and relationship - January 1, 2020
  • Multidirectional leveraging for computational morphology and language documentation and revitalization - January 1, 2020
    Abstract: St. Lawrence Island Yupik is an endangered language of the Bering Strait region. In this paper, we describe our work on Yupik jointly leveraging computational morphology and linguistic fieldwork, outlining the multilayer virtuous cycle that we continue to refine in our work to document and build tools for the language. After developing a preliminary morphological analyzer from an existing pedagogical grammar of Yupik, we used it to help analyze new word forms gathered through fieldwork. While in the field, we augmented the analyzer to include insights into the lexicon, phonology, and morphology of the language as they were gained during elicitation sessions and subsequent data analysis. The analyzer and other tools we have developed are improved by a corpus that continues to grow through our digitization and documentation efforts, and the computational tools in turn allow us to improve and speed those same efforts. Through this process, we have successfully identified previously undescribed lexical, morphological, and phonological processes in Yupik while simultaneously increasing the coverage of the morphological analyzer. Given the polysynthetic nature of Yupik, a high-coverage morphological analyzer is a necessary prerequisite for the development of other high-level computational tools that have been requested by the Yupik community.

Volume 13

  • Language documentation in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes: A guide to two archives and a web exhibit - December 1, 2019
    Abstract: We describe two institutionally related archives and an online exhibit representing a set of Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal. These archives and exhibit were built to house materials resulting from documentation of twelve Tibeto-Burman languages in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. This account includes a detailed discussion of the different materials recorded, and how they were prepared for the collections. This account also provides a comparison of the two different types of archives, the different but complementary functions they serve, and a discussion of the role that online exhibits can play in the context of language documentation archives.
  • Domain change and ethnolinguistic vitality: Evidence from the fishing lexicon of Loloan Malay - November 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper reports a study on the vitality of the fishing lexicon in Loloan Malay. The study was aimed at finding the nature and pattern of domain change, its intergenerational transmission, and its significance for overall ethnolinguistic vitality. The data were collected from a representative group of fishermen through tests that were complemented by interviews. A simple quantitative analysis was undertaken to discover patterns of change, and the ethnographic method was also used to augment the analysis. This study contributes to the sociolinguistic research on language vitality, contact-induced change, and the endangerment of minority languages. The findings reveal a surprising paradox. Although it is still considered to have high cultural importance, the fishing domain is critically endangered. It is argued that the low vitality of the fishing domain does not affect the vitality of the Loloan Malay language in general. The reason is that the linguistic ideology that underpins the group identity of Loloan Malay at the macro-societal level is not tied to fishing, but rather, to religion. This paper also discusses the complexity of the variables involved in domain change, particularly the extra-linguistic factors that contribute to the changes in the fishing domain due to modern socio-economic and technological progress.
  • Public access to research data in language documentation: Challenges and possible strategies - October 1, 2019
    Abstract: The Open Access Movement promotes free and unfettered access to research publications and, increasingly, to the primary data which underly those publications. As the field of documentary linguistics seeks to record and preserve culturally and linguistically relevant materials, the question of how openly accessible these materials should be becomes increasingly important. This paper aims to guide researchers and other stakeholders in finding an appropriate balance between accessibility and confidentiality of data, addressing community questions and legal, institutional, and intellectual issues that pose challenges to accessible data.
  • Language revitalization, video, and mobile social media: A case study from the Khroskyabs language amongst Tibetans in China - October 1, 2019
    Abstract: Technology is by no means the most important channel to maintain a language, but it is an effective mode to communicate and interact using the language. As the lives of Khroskyabs speakers continue to be modernized, fewer and fewer aspects of those lives will take place in Khroskyabs. Furthermore, Khroskyabs speakers tend to express negative attitudes towards their language, especially in comparison to the dominant national language – Mandarin – and the local prestige language – Tibetan. The Mothertongue Film on Mobile Social Media project aims to expand the Khroskyabs language into a new domain amongst its speakers by creating a series of videos in the language and sharing them on social media-WeChat. The emerging use of social media such as WeChat provides a platform for language use in the contemporary context for unrecognized and under-resourced languages like Khroskyabs. This project aimed to address these issues, of domain exclusion and negative attitudes, through the production of mobile digital media that can be freely and conveniently shared via the social media platform WeChat for consumption of people in the Khroskyabs-speaking community.
  • Language names and nonlinguists: A response to Haspelmath - October 1, 2019
    Abstract: Haspelmath (2017) proposes a set of principles governing language names. I discuss various issues with his proposals centering around the fact that Haspelmath does not give sufficient consideration for the need for linguists to consider the use of names by nonlinguists in choosing names.
  • Language vitality assessment of Deori: An endangered language - September 1, 2019
    Abstract: Deori, a Tibeto-Burman language, is an “endangered” language and is described as a language on the verge of its extinction. Recent research on Deori phonetics and phonology has shown loss of distinct pitch realization and identification in the speech of older as well as younger generation speakers. The difference in production and perception of tonal categories among the speakers of the younger age group led to an examination of language vitality of Deori. To substantiate the analyses of inter-generational language change, this study takes into account inter-generational perceptions on language use and its robustness. The findings of this study show that the language status of Deori is not completely bleak, and there is a sense of optimism for the future of the language among speakers irrespective of age. The findings also show that the language suffers from lack of support in the public domain, lack of teachers to teach Deori as a subject in schools, and absence of exposure in new media. If these problems are rectified, then there is hope of survival for Deori, but only with sustained and conscious efforts aimed at revitalizing.
  • Scoring sign language vitality: Adapting a spoken language survey to target the endangerment factors affecting sign languages - August 1, 2019
    Abstract: This article explores factors affecting the vitality/endangerment levels of sign languages, and how these levels were assessed through an international collaboration using a systematic scoring scheme. This included adapting UNESCO’s Linguistic Vitality and Diversity survey and developing a system for determining endangerment levels based on the responses. Other endangerment scales are briefly explored along with UNESCO’s, and the survey adaptation and systematic scoring processes are explained. The survey needed to be carefully adapted because even though many spoken language procedures can be also used for sign languages, there are additional challenges and characteristics that uniquely affect sign language communities. The article then presents the vitality scores for 15 languages, including both national and village sign languages, and the major factors threatening their vitality. The methodology of scoring based on averages is innovative, as is the workflow between the questionnaire respondents and scoring committee. Such innovations may also be useful for spoken languages. Future efforts might develop best practice models for promoting sign language vitality and compile diachronic data to monitor changes in endangerment status. The findings can also inform policy work to bring about legal recognition, greater communication access, and the protection of deaf signers’ linguistic and cultural identity.
  • Reexamining the classification of an endangered language: The vitality of Brunca - August 1, 2019
    Abstract: In 2010, linguists declared Boruca (Brúnkajk) or Brunca (brn), an Indigenous language originating in what is now Costa Rica, to be extinct, basing their assessment on the number of living fully fluent native speakers. Since 2010, there has been no written verification of the current state of the language. Brunca classes are offered in the elementary schools as the primary way the language is being maintained, but they have not been taken into account in prior analyses. According to published research from almost two decades ago, Brunca appears to be losing ground. This has led to its designation as “critically endangered” or “dormant” by most established scales. In order to determine the actual status of the language in the community, we conducted participant observations in the Brunca classes and a series of interviews with the Boruca Culture Council, community elders, and a linguist currently involved in revitalization efforts elsewhere in Costa Rica. Through the present analysis of local stakeholders’ responses, data emerged on truncated but existent efforts to bring back the language. Thus, the present study is at the cutting edge of trying to define what should be measured to determine language vitality and progress in revitalization.
  • Ḵ̓a̱ḵ̓otł̓atła̱no’x̱w x̱a ḵ̓waḵ̓wax̱’mas: Documenting and reclaiming plant names and words in Kwak̓wala on Canada’s west coast - August 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper describes the process and outcomes of a project focused on community-centred reclamation of plant-based knowledge in the Kwak̓wala language from previously published materials as well as new documentation with Kwak̓wala-speaking Elders. The paper describes our research process resulting in the documentation of 300 plant word names and phrases, starting with 135 plants with names and words in Kwak̓wala that had been documented between the late 19th and early 20th century by Franz Boas and George Hunt, subsequently added to and enriched by community members and academics. An audio-visual dictionary of these plant names and associated phrases is now available through the FirstVoices web portal (http://bit.ly/LDC_FirstVoices). The corresponding author initiated the work and then further developed the research in collaboration with Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw fluent speakers, linguists, biologists, and the U’mista Cultural Society. The project has stimulated interest among community members who provided valuable feedback on the different ways in which this research can be further accessed and then delivered. The paper concludes with some structured reflections on how to proceed in community-led research projects such as this. The authors see further opportunity for continued cross-disciplinary and community-based research.
  • Recording to revitalize: Language teachers and documentation design - August 1, 2019
    Abstract: As language communities lose their last first-language speakers, many turn to language teachers to carry on the important work of language maintenance and revival. How can we design documentation projects that will be useful for these future language users? This paper outlines findings from interviews conducted with ten teachers of Native languages of the Pacific Northwest. These teachers identified specific, concrete areas where language documentation has helped them in their revitalization work, and areas where there are noticeable and often frustrating gaps. Their reflections and observations lead to several concrete suggestions for what linguists can add to their documentation efforts, and also underscore the potential richness of a project designed with teachers in mind. Collaboration with future language revitalizers could be greatly beneficial both to language communities and to linguists.
  • Global Survey of Revitalization Efforts: A mixed methods approach to understanding language revitalization practices - August 1, 2019
    Abstract: The world’s linguistic diversity, estimated at over 7,000 languages, is declining rapidly. As awareness about this has increased, so have responses from a number of stakeholders. In this study we present the results of the Global Survey of Revitalization Efforts carried out by a mixed methods approach and comparative analysis of revitalization efforts worldwide. The Survey included 30 questions, was administered online in 7 languages, and documented 245 revitalization efforts yielding some 40,000 bits of data. In this study, we report on frequency counts and show, among other findings, that revitalization efforts are heavily focused on language teaching, perhaps over intergenerational transmission of a language, and rely heavily on community involvement although do not only involve language community members exclusively. The data also show that support for language revitalization in the way of funding, as well as endorsement, is critical to revitalization efforts. This study also makes evident the social, cultural, political, and geographic gaps in what we know about revitalization worldwide. We hope that this study will strengthen broad interest and commitment to studying, understanding, and supporting language revitalization as an integral aspect of the history of human language in the 21st century.
  • Evaluating cross-linguistic forced alignment of conversational data in north Australian Kriol, an under-resourced language - June 1, 2019
    Abstract: Speech technology is transforming language documentation; acoustic models trained on “small” languages are now technically feasible. At the same time, forced alignment built for major world languages has matured and now offers ease of use through web interfaces requiring low technical expertise. This paper provides an updated and detailed evaluation of cross-linguistic forced alignment, the approach of using forced aligners untrained on the target language. We compare two options within MAUS (Munich Automatic Segmentation System): language-independent mode vs major world language system (here, Italian) on the one dataset, a comparison that has not previously been reported. The dataset comes from a corpus of adult conversational speech in Kriol, an English-based creole of northern Australia. The results of using MAUS Italian were better than those of using the language-independent mode and those in previous studies: the agreement rate at 20 ms was 72.1% at vowel onset and 57.2% at vowel offset. With completely misaligned tokens excluded, the overall agreement rate rose to 69.2% at 20 ms and over 90% at 50 ms. Most errors in the output SAMPA (Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet) labels were resolvable with simple text replacements. These results offer updated benchmark data for an untrained, late-model forced alignment system.
  • The Javanese language at risk? Perspectives from an East Java village - June 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper assesses the language vitality of the Javanese variety spoken in Paciran, Lamongan, East Java, Indonesia using UNESCO’s nine factors as the core approach and the EGIDS framework for comparison. In this assessment, I show that it is crucial to take into account (i) the speech level distinction between ngoko ‘Low Javanese’ and krama/basa ‘High Javanese’, (ii) the urban-rural divide, and (iii) socio-political and economic factors relevant to Indonesia. Due to the necessary inclusion of these variables among other factors, I suggest that the EGIDS framework – while still useful – cannot capture the nuances of the linguistic vitality situation of Javanese varieties as well as the UNESCO nine factors approach can. Overall, the results suggest that ngoko is presently in a stable diglossic position with Indonesian, the national language, while krama is at risk of endangerment. In Paciran village, the shift away from krama is towards the local variety of ngoko, compared to Indonesian as the unmarked alternative in urban settings. While a stable result for ngoko as spoken in Paciran village is encouraging, utmost caution must be taken given that negative attitudes towards Javanese varieties have been reported in other rural settings in Java.
  • Documenting ritual songs: Best practices for preserving the ambiguity of Alto Perené (Arawak) shamanic pantsantsi ‘singing’ - May 1, 2019
    Abstract: Drawing on extensive fieldwork, the paper explores the ways of interpreting and translating a shamanic pantsantsi song by a fieldworker and Alto Perené (a.k.a Ashéninka Perené) language workers. The language’s vitality is on a steep downward trajectory. Currently, it is spoken by a few hundred people. Aiming to create a thorough record of shamanic singing for the purpose of Alto Perené preservation, the fieldworker grapples with various stumbling blocks. Among them are the absence of shamans as an institution, the simulative setting of audio and video recordings, the inaccessibility of the text meanings to language consultants, and the non-definitiveness of the translated text. The shamanic language is manipulated in various ways to make it distinct from the profane speech of community members. The manipulative strategies include the singer’s allusions to the predation and conviviality schemes, prosodic repetitions, lexical and morphosyntactic manipulations, and voice masking. The meaning of the pantsantsi text eludes the non-indigenous fieldworker unless she collaborates with highly proficient language speakers, devotes many years to the committed study of the research language, possesses a good knowledge of the culture-specific background, and draws on multiple sources of translation.
  • Learning and teaching Gumbaynggirr through story: Behind the scenes of professional learning workshops for teachers of an Aboriginal language - May 1, 2019
    Abstract: This study unpacks characteristics of the Gumbaynggirr context and aligns them to the rationale, development, and delivery of a set of workshops designed to support community members teaching their language in schools in New South Wales, Australia. In this community adults learn Gumbaynggirr primarily via material made available through historical and linguistic research. Community language revival endeavours have been in progress for some years and are now further expanding into schools. Supporting school teaching of languages being revived is a complex yet under-reported matter, a gap this paper starts to fill. To this end we detail how the strengths of personnel and language resources at the heart of Gumbaynggirr revival efforts allow story to emerge as a focus for the workshops. The project is a collaboration between local community members and university-based colleagues some distance away. The behind-the-scenes planning for the workshops and associated learning and teaching resources are the basis of the research reported here. Methodologically it responds to a community-determined agenda and applies a translational research intent. That is, it shows how tailored input from academic disciplines can maximize language and culture outcomes for teacher development in a revival context.
  • Revitalisation of Mangarrayi: Supporting community use of archival audio exemplars for creation of language learning resources - May 1, 2019
    Abstract: Mangarrayi is a critically endangered language from the western Roper River re- gion in the Northern Territory of Australia. Today the greatest concentration of Mangarrayi people live at Jilkminggan, 135 kilometres south-east of Katherine. Although several older Mangarrayi speakers remain, the language is no longer used in day-to-day communication. However, there is a desire amongst a number of young adult community members to learn some of their heritage language. In this paper we discuss the process undertaken to support these aspirations, focus- ing on the use of exemplar Mangarrayi utterances sourced from archival docu- ments as a key to developing a basic level of communicative competence in con- texts identified as important to learners. This requires a clear understanding of how and when to use the utterances. We propose using a combination of language functions, topics, and sub-topics to clarify usage and support non-specialist com- munity members in using these for learning and teaching Mangarrayi.
  • Interpreting language use in Ozelonacaxtla, Puebla, Mexico - March 1, 2019
    Abstract: Despite sharing many cultural, historical, and socioeconomic characteristics, Totonac communities have markedly distinct language use patterns and practices. Some communities have adopted the mainstream hegemonic discourse in Mexico that denigrates indigeneity and subsequently abandoned Totonac (Lam 2009). In other communities, such as Ozelonacaxtla, an alternate discourse dominates that values multilingualism, and Totonac is widely spoken by the vast majority of the community. This variation across Totonac communities facing the same broad pressures to shift to Spanish demonstrates that current sociodemographic models of language shift lack significant predictive power. By examining not only sociodemographic factors, but also language ideology, this study seeks to determine whether and how language use in Ozeloancaxtla is qualitatively different in nature from other Totonac communities. Interpreting language use in Ozelonacaxtla is undertaken in the methodology of qualitative linguistic ethnography (Copland & Creese 2015). Results show that Ozelonacaxtla Totonac is currently used in almost all community and home domains; however some threats to continued sustainability are recognized. Three main language ideologies in Ozelonacaxtla are identified: (i) language is an index of identity, (ii) language is important/useful, and (iii) Totonac should not be lost. These main discourses are used by speakers to explain, justify, and contest language use patterns and practices, and significant differences in ideology are found across Totonac communities with contrasting language use. This demonstrates the importance of examining ideology in order to accurately interpret language use and best position potential efforts to support language sustainability, documentation, and revitalization.
  • maqlaqsyalank hemyeega: Goals and expectations of Klamath-Modoc revitalization - March 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper documents a collaboration between the Klamath Tribes and the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) focused on intra-community capacity-building and early stages of language planning through immersion activities, survey responses, and discussion of intra-community involvement. In December 2016, I facilitated a three-day maqlaqsyals (Klamath-Modoc language) immersion workshop, “maqlaqsyalank hemyeega”, on the Klamath reservation. Each day, immersion lessons focused on developing conversational use of maqlaqsyals between participants. During each lunch hour, participants shared personal goals and priorities regarding successful language revitalization. Ten tribal community members, including myself, made explicit their interest of sharing knowledge within the larger tribal community. Many of the workshop participants expressed the goal of using the language with their families while some participants expressed that the workshop had already helped them reach a personal goal in three days. Participants also discussed obtaining linguistic resources and establishing domains of language use. Understanding current interests of language in my tribal community provides early steps toward developing the framework of a “good linguist” in the maqlaqsyals revitalization movement.
  • Notes from the Field: Remontado (Hatang-Kayi): A Moribund Language of the Philippines - February 1, 2019
    Abstract: Nearly half a century has passed since Philippine educator Teodoro Llamzon discovered the Remontado language, which would be introduced to the world in a master’s thesis written by his student Pilar Santos. Although data from the wordlists they collected have been included in subsequent publications by several other authors, no one had revisited the language community, let alone collected any additional data on this highly-endangered language, prior to the current authors. This article presents updated information on the language community, the current state of the language, and a revised description of the various grammatical subsystems of the language, including its verbal morphology. Also included are over 400 audio recordings illustrating basic aspects of the phonology as well as the various functor sets and verb forms, and a short text for comparison with other similar language sketches.
  • Towards an interdisciplinary bridge between documentation and revitalization: Bringing ethnographic methods into endangered-language projects and programming - February 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper addresses the gaps between language documentation and language revitalization. It is intended for several audiences, including field linguists interested in supporting endangered language sustainability efforts and participants of all kinds in language revitalization courses, programs, and infrastructure. The authors contend that ethnographic methods have transformative potential for contemporary language revitalization practice. Using anthropological tools, linguists and/or speech community members can enrich documentary efforts, mobilize linguistic data for more effective revitalization programs, and improve assessments of language revitalization projects. Beginning with a discussion of ethnographic methods and their connection to existing linguistic practices, this paper moves on to address the impact of language revitalization planning and infrastructure on endangered language use. It then outlines key ethnographic concepts that were identified as particularly useful in two pilot ethnographic methods classes run by the authors in 2015 and 2016, each of which can be operationalized using the basic tenets of participant observation. These concepts present ways of re-evaluating understandings of “communities”; considering language ideologies, ideological clarification, and language socialization; recognizing the nature and implications of different social roles and identities of those involved in revitalization projects; and attuning to genre and intertextuality in the development of resources. The incorporation of both basic ethnographic methodologies and of conceptual frames like these can supplement a field linguist’s or a language revitalization program’s tools to help them better collaborate across differences, support and assess language programs, and understand the obstacles that may exist between them, their collaborators, and sustainable language vitality.
  • Accessing, managing, and mobilizing an ELAN-based language documentation corpus: the Kwaras and Namuti tools - February 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper introduces Kwaras and Namuti, two new tools for building, managing, accessing, and mobilizing ELAN-based language documentation corpora. Kwaras integrates WAV files, ELAN annotations, and document metadata into a web-based corpus, allowing immediate access to annotations and recordings. Namuti builds from Kwaras and enables different uses of language documentation products for different audiences and provides links from linguistic analyses to language documentation corpora. The main goal of these new tools is three-fold: (i) to facilitate the use of language documentation in linguistic analysis; (ii) to increase transparency of documentation-based analyses, providing interested users full access to the data on which generalizations are based and contextualization of the projects that generated the data; and (iii) to enable uses of language corpora that may serve the interests of multiple stakeholders, including academic researchers and community members interested in language maintenance and revitalization. We provide a basic overview of how Kwaras and Namuti work, lay out instructions on how to download and use Kwaras, and discuss what uses it currently supports. This article also issues a call for increased collaboration between linguists, community members, language activists, and software developers to further develop these and other similar resources.
  • The languages of northern Ambrym, Vanuatu: A guide to the deposited materials in ELAR - February 1, 2019
    Abstract: This paper gives a detailed overview of the archived language documentation materials for the two languages spoken in northern Ambrym, Vanuatu: North Ambrym and Fanbyak. I discuss the speakers and the language situation in northern Ambrym to give readers an introduction to the culture of the area. The archived materials encompass five different research projects focusing on the two languages, including documentation and literacy development projects. Data collection, workflows, file-naming conventions, and community involvement are all discussed. The deposited materials are described along with overviews of the different genres, sub-genres, and keywords to enable users to navigate and discover relevant recordings.

Volume 12

  • Documenting a language with phonemic and phonetic variation: the case of Enets - December 1, 2018
    Abstract: This paper describes phonemic and phonetic variation attested in Enets, a highly endangered Uralic language of Northern Siberia. This variation is worth describing for three reasons. First of all, it is a part of documenting phonology of this disappearing language. Second, it is extremely frequent and widespread, including most words of the lexicon, but at the same time it does not visibly correlate with any social parameters, so this is one more case study in the vein of the sociolinguistic agenda set by Dorian (2001; 2010). Third, the Enets variation presents a challenge for consistent transcription, let alone an orthography design. These three reasons structure the paper: after an introductory section on the Enets community, languages used in the community in past and present, methodology of this study, and phonological profile of Enets, I proceed to a phonological description of the variation (section 2), to sociolinguistic details of this variation (section 3), and finally to issues of representation of the Enets data in a vain search for a perfect orthography for the language (section 4). Crucially, the last reason was the driving force for this research in the first place, as “[c]reating a phonemic orthography implies at least a basic phonological analysis preceding its design” (Jany 2010:234) and “faulty phonological analyses give rise to faulty orthographies” (Rehg 2004:506). Being neither a phonetician, nor a phonologist, I had initially aimed only for a basic description of sound patterns for the sake of an orthography; however, it quickly became evident that the puzzle of variation in Enets was not to be taken lightly, and more specific research was conducted. However, despite all the work done, I still see the results rather as a grounding for a consistent transcription/orthography than as a full phonological description. For the latter, Enets is still awaiting a talented phonologist, while our documentation project aimed hard to preserve exemplars of Enets sounds for this purpose (see Khanina 2017 for details).
  • Working with ‘Women Only’: Gendered protocols in the digitization and archiving process - December 1, 2018
    Abstract: Gender is a significant social category that needs to be taken into consideration when working with Australian Aboriginal communities. Whilst archives hold knowledge systems that encode cultural practices of huge importance to current Australian Indigenous language revitalization projects, women have often been marginalized and excluded due to culturally inappropriate practices of collection, storage, and access. As women working in an archive, the authors provide a gendered perspective on the development of workflow processes that have the potential to re-orientate the relationship with endangered language communities and contribute to the negotiation of agency for Aboriginal women in the archival space. This paper draws on the experience of an Australian archiving service involved in a partnership with an Aboriginal organization to digitize resources and facilitate their return to the originating communities. As part of the partnership, tapes of women’s songs from central Australia were digitized using the skills of a female audio engineer. The paper argues that utilizing a female chain of linguist, anthropologist, musicologist, data administrator, and audio engineer in a participatory loop empowered the women in community to make choices knowing that their cultural property was being handled with respect and in a culturally appropriate manner.
  • Developing an Audio-visual Corpus of Scottish Gaelic - December 1, 2018
    Abstract: Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken primarily in the western regions of Scotland, is experiencing sustained contraction in its geographical extent and domains of use. Native speakers of the language are mostly over 40, and relatively few children are acquiring the language in the home. In the media, Gaelic is typically represented by a standardized form, and children learning the language through Gaelic-medium education – currently the only demographic where Gaelic is expanding – tend to acquire a standardized form of the language as well. Consequently, the rich regional diversity Gaelic once displayed has been considerably reduced in recent decades, and is likely to suffer further significant losses within the next generation. There is an imperative, therefore, to create a record of the surviving diversity within the language, focusing most urgently on remaining speakers of dialects most at risk. In this paper, we describe our ongoing efforts to develop an audio-video corpus of Gaelic which represents as diverse a range of Gaelic dialects as possible, with particular attention to those varieties most immediately at risk of loss. The corpus contains material collected over the past four years through extensive fieldwork among historically Gaelic-speaking communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
  • Review of The Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the Solega: A Linguistic Perspective - December 1, 2018
  • A Guide to the Documentation of the Beth Qustan Dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic Language Turoyo - September 1, 2018
    Abstract: The main aim of language documentation is to create a long-lasting multipurpose record that captures the wealth of linguistic practices of a speech community. The purpose is to reflect traditions, customs, culture, civilization, etc. This article defines, navigates and provides insights into the contents of one particular language documentation project, namely the “Documentation of the Beth Qustan Dialect of the Central Neo-Aramaic Language Turoyo”. The documentation of Turoyo was funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. All the materials collected have been archived with the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR), at SOAS, University of London. The materials held are digital and they are freely available to all users of ELAR at https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1035085.
  • Simultaneous Visualization of Language Endangerment and Language Description - September 1, 2018
    Abstract: The world harbors 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. Urgently indeed, many efforts are being launched to document and describe languages. This undertaking naturally has the priority toward the most endangered and least described languages. For the first time, we combine world-wide databases on language description (Glottolog) and language endangerment (ElCat, Ethnologue, UNESCO) and provide two online interfaces, GlottoScope and GlottoVis, to visualize these together. The interfaces are capable of browsing, filtering, zooming, basic statistics, and different ways of combining the two measures on a world map background. GlottoVis provides advanced techniques for combining cluttered dots on a map. With the tools and databases described we seek to increase the overall knowledge of the actual state language endangerment and description worldwide.
  • Integrating Automatic Transcription into the Language Documentation Workflow: Experiments with Na Data and the Persephone Toolkit - September 1, 2018
    Abstract: Automatic speech recognition tools have potential for facilitating language documentation, but in practice these tools remain little-used by linguists for a variety of reasons, such as that the technology is still new (and evolving rapidly), user-friendly interfaces are still under development, and case studies demonstrating the practical usefulness of automatic recognition in a low-resource setting remain few. This article reports on a success story in integrating automatic transcription into the language documentation workflow, specifically for Yongning Na, a language of Southwest China. Using Persephone, an open-source toolkit, a single-speaker speech transcription tool was trained over five hours of manually transcribed speech. The experiments found that this method can achieve a remarkably low error rate (on the order of 17%), and that automatic transcriptions were useful as a canvas for the linguist. The present report is intended for linguists with little or no knowledge of speech processing. It aims to provide insights into (i) the way the tool operates and (ii) the process of collaborating with natural language processing specialists. Practical recommendations are offered on how to anticipate the requirements of this type of technology from the early stages of data collection in the field.
  • The Blackfoot Language Resources and Digital Dictionary project: Creating integrated web resources for language documentation and revitalization - June 1, 2018
    Abstract: This paper describes ongoing work to create a suite of integrated web resources in support of Blackfoot language documentation, maintenance, and revitalization efforts. Built around a digital dictionary, the website also contains grammar sketches, a library of other language-related resources, and a story archive. The project began its life as advocacy research (i.e., a digital repatriation project) but developed into empowerment research through community participation. The first phase consisted of back-digitization of an existing print dictionary. The second phase, which is ongoing, works toward making the dictionary user-friendly for speakers, learners, and teachers, and embedding it in a website that contains supporting content. Key features are developed collaboratively with Blackfoot community members. In order to create an environment in which all participants are equally empowered to help shape the project, a Participatory Action Research approach was adopted for the second phase of teamwork. This resulted in important new priorities for presentation, content, and enhancement of features. It has also had impact on the participants themselves, who developed awareness and new relationships as well as acquiring new skills and knowledge, which for some contributed to new jobs and academic directions. Finally, the project is producing new material to address existing research questions and generating new questions for future research projects.
  • Seeing Speech: Ultrasound-based Multimedia Resources for Pronunciation Learning in Indigenous Languages - June 1, 2018
    Abstract: Pronunciation is an important aspect of Indigenous language learning, and one which requires creative community-oriented solutions. Towards this end, we have developed a pronunciation learning tool that incorporates ultrasound technology to give learners a visual aid to help them articulate unfamiliar and/or challenging sounds. Ultrasound is used to create videos of a model speaker’s tongue movements during speech, which are then overlaid on videos of an external profile view of the model’s head to create ultrasound-enhanced pronunciation videos for individual words or sounds. A key advantage of these videos is that learners are able see how speech is produced rather than just hear and try to mimic it. Although ultrasound-enhanced videos were originally developed for commonly taught languages such as Japanese and French, there has been widespread interest from Indigenous communities in Western Canada to develop their own customized videos. This paper reports on three collaborations between linguists and communities in British Columbia to develop ultrasound-enhanced videos for the SENĆOŦEN, Secwepemc, and Halq’emeylem languages. These videos can give learners a new way to learn pronunciation that focuses on seeing speech, and can create new documentation of understudied sound systems for future generations.
  • Discourses of speakerhood in Iyasa: Linguistic identity and authenticity in an endangered language - June 1, 2018
    Abstract: Within most subfields of linguistics, the term “speaker” is often used in a shorthand, nonspecific way. In referring simply to “speakers” of endangered languages, the nuances of proficiency, language use, self-identification, and local language ideologies are collapsed into a binary: speaker vs. non-speaker. Despite the central role of local language ideologies in shaping patterns of language shift and maintenance, insiders’ perceptions of speaker status are not often investigated as part of language documentation projects. This paper approaches the issue of speaker status in Iyasa, a threatened Coastal Bantu language of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, through the firsthand accounts of self-identified Iyasa speakers. Using a discourse-analytic approach and the framework of identity and interaction (Bucholtz & Hall 2005), this paper examines the ways Iyasa speakers construct “speakerhood” in discourse, respond to researchers’ language ideologies, and position their own and others’ proficiency in Iyasa. Local language ideologies which equate ruralness, elderliness, and authenticity are discussed, as well as their links to similar ideologies in linguistics. Finally, the implications for language documentation and maintenance work in the Iyasa community are discussed.
  • Review of Lakota Grammar Handbook : a pedagogically orientated self-study reference and practice book for beginner to upper-intermediate students - April 1, 2018
  • A Guide to the Syuba (Kagate) Language Documentation Corpus - April 1, 2018
    Abstract: This article provides an overview of the collection “Kagate (Syuba)”, archived with both the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) and the Endangered Language Archive (ELAR). It provides an overview of the materials that have been archived, as well as details of the workflow, conventions used, and structure of the collection. It also provides context for the content of the collection, including an overview of the language context, and some of the motivations behind the documentation project. This article thus provides an entry point to the collection. The future plans for the collection – from the perspectives of both the researcher and Syuba speakers – are also outlined, but with the overwhelming majority of items in the collection available to others, it is hoped that this article will encourage use of the materials by other researchers.
  • Forced Alignment for Understudied Language Varieties: Testing Prosodylab-Aligner with Tongan Data - March 1, 2018
    Abstract: Automated alignment of transcriptions to audio files expedites the process of preparing data for acoustic analysis. Unfortunately, the benefits of auto-alignment have generally been available only to researchers studying majority languages, for which large corpora exist and for which acoustic models have been created by large-scale research projects. Prosodylab-Aligner (PL-A), from McGill University, facilitates automated alignment and segmentation for understudied languages. It allows researchers to train acoustic models using the same audio files for which alignments will be created. Those models can then be used to create time-aligned Praat TextGrids with word and phone boundaries marked. For the benefit of others who wish to use PL-A for research projects, this paper reports on our use of PL-A on Tongan field recordings, reviewing the software, outlining required steps, and providing tips. Since field recordings often contain more background noise than the laboratory recordings for which PL-A was designed, the paper also discusses the relative benefits of removing background noise for both training and alignment purposes. Finally, it compares acoustic measures based on various alignments and compares boundary placements with those of human aligners, demonstrating that automated alignment is both feasible and less time-consuming than manual alignment.
  • Kratylos: A tool for sharing interlinearized and lexical data in diverse formats - March 1, 2018
    Abstract: In this paper we present Kratylos, at www.kratylos.org, a web application that creates searchable multimedia corpora from data collections in diverse formats, including collections of interlinearized glossed text (IGT) and dictionaries. There exists a crucial lacuna in the electronic ecology that supports language documentation and linguistic research. Vast amounts of IGT are produced in stand-alone programs without an easy way to share them publicly as dynamic databases. Solving this problem will not only unlock an enormous amount of linguistic information that can be shared easily across the web, it will also improve accountability by allowing us to verify analyses across collections of primary data. We argue for a two-pronged approach to sharing language documentation, which involves a popular interface and a specialist interface. Finally, we briefly introduce the potential of regular expression queries for syntactic research.
  • Single-event Rapid Word Collection workshops: Efficient, effective, empowering - March 1, 2018
    Abstract: In this paper we describe single-event Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop results in 12 languages, and compare these results to fieldwork lexicons collected by other means. We show that this methodology of collecting words by semantic domain by community engagement leads to obtaining more words in less time than conventional collection methods. Factors contributing to high and low net word senses are summarized, addressed, and suggestions given for increasing effectiveness of the RWC procedures. Relevant points are illustrated in detail using a 2015 Natügu [ntu] RWC workshop in the Solomon Islands. We conclude that the advantages of the single-event RWC workshop strategy warrant recommending it as best practice in lexicographic fieldwork for minority languages.
  • The endangered state of Negidal: A field report - February 1, 2018
    Abstract: Negidal is a Northern Tungusic language closely related to Evenki with two recognized dialects, Upper and Lower Negidal. This nearly extinct language used to be spoken in the Lower Amur region of the Russian Far East by people whose traditional way of life was based on fishing and hunting. While the number of remaining active speakers of Upper Negidal was more or less known, the current state of Lower Negidal was still uncertain. We here report on a trip to ascertain the state of Lower Negidal and give a precise assessment of the linguistic situation of both dialects. While the Upper dialect is still represented by seven elderly female speakers, varying in proficiency from fully fluent to barely able to produce a narrative, not a single active speaker of Lower Negidal is left. The language will therefore probably be extinct in the next decade or two.
  • Orthography development for Darma (The case that wasn’t) - February 1, 2018
    Abstract: As the discipline of language documentation and description evolves, so do the expectations placed on researchers. Current trends emphasize collaborative efforts that prioritize tangible contributions to the community, such as a pedagogical grammar, dictionary, or collection of texts. Some argue that for unwritten languages orthography development is imperative so that materials prepared by the researcher (perhaps in collaboration with the community) are accessible to speakers. In light of the current discussions of methodology and ethical issues related to endeavors to document and describe the world’s languages, this paper explores the challenges faced by a single researcher (the author) working on a single language (Darma) within a multilingual setting (in India). This project emphasizes ethnographic and discourse-centered research methodologies which reveal language ideologies that are discussed here to demonstrate that while orthography development is a reasonable objective in many cases, one must be sensitive to a variety of interconnecting issues including history, social relationships, language ideology, and local politics associated with writing and education. While orthography development has not been a viable option in the Darma Documentation and Description Project, it is nevertheless a matter that needs to be addressed for the benefit of the community as well as ongoing discussions of methodology and best practices in linguistic and anthropological research.
  • Review of Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology (Studies in Diversity Linguistics 13) - February 1, 2018
  • Contact languages around the world and their levels of endangerment - February 1, 2018
    Abstract: This paper provides an up-to-date report on the vitality or endangerment status of contact languages around the world, including pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages. By utilizing information featured in the Endangered Languages Project and the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Languages online portals, 96 contact languages are assessed on the Language Endangerment Index, a method of assessment that is based on four factors including intergenerational transmission, absolute number of speakers, speaker number trends, and domains of use. Results show that the contact languages are most at risk with respect to intergenerational transmission and domains of use. This is explained by the social and historical nature of contact languages. Overall results further raise the concern that the proportion of pidgins, creoles and mixed languages at some level of risk is extremely high. Reasons are provided for why linguists should be concerned about the endangerment of these languages.


Volume 11

  • Mapping Dialectal Variation Using the Algonquian Linguistic Atlas - December 1, 2017
    Abstract: The Algonquian Linguistic Atlas (www.atlas-ling.ca) is an online multimedia linguistic atlas of Algonquian languages in Canada, built based on a template of conversational topics. It includes Algonquian languages primarily from the Cree-Innu-Naskapi continuum, but also from Blackfoot, Mi’kmaw, and Ojibwe (including Algonquin), with other languages in progress. In this paper we discuss how the data collected for the Algonquian Linguistic Atlas was used to conduct a bottom-up study of dialectal boundaries in Cree-Innu-Naskapi and their degree of relatedness to neighboring Algonquian languages. By studying the coincidence of phonological, lexical, grammatical, syntactic, and semantic isoglosses drawn from the Atlas data, we hope to show the research potential coming out of tools developed for pedagogical purposes. This research can in turn further guide the development of new terminology and more pedagogical resources, as well as lead to better understanding of dialectal differences and similarities across the language family.
  • Review of Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures: An Ecological Perspective - December 1, 2017
  • Notes from the field: Another moribund language of Indonesia, with supporting audio - December 1, 2017
    Abstract: This paper consists of a short multimedia introduction to Lolak, a near-extinct Greater Central Philippine language traditionally spoken in three small communities on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. In addition to being one of the most underdocumented languages in the area, it is also spoken by one of the smallest native speaker populations in northern Sulawesi. Included in this overview are over 500 recordings of words and phrases pronounced by one of the oldest and most fluent speakers of the language, illustrating its phoneme system, grammatical subsets, and system of verbal affixation.
  • Building Tone Resources for Second Language Learners from Phonetic Documentation: Cherokee Examples - November 1, 2017
    Abstract: Lexical tone is a linguistic feature which can present difficulties for second language learners wanting to revitalize their heritage language. This is true not only from the standpoint of understanding and pronunciation, but also because tone is often under-documented and resources are limited or too technical to be useful to community members. Even with these challenges, carefully attending to the intricacies of a language’s sound system allows learners to express themselves more “authentically” or “naturally,” which can be important for confidence and acceptance as language users. Learners can be trained to distinguish tones by attending to acoustic or auditory cues related to tone (e.g., pitch contour). This paper describes multimedia resources designed to focus learner attention on perceiving tone -- visual and audio accompaniments helping to increase the perception of tone in Cherokee, a severely endangered Native American language. We created resources for tone in the form of an electronic presentation containing explanations, example recordings, and intuitive images to provide audio and visual support for language learners. Presentation and format choices were collaboratively designed based on community requests, with an explicit attempt to de-jargonize materials and make them less technical and more accessible to community members.
  • Liinnaqumalghiit: A web-based tool for addressing orthographic transparency in St. Lawrence Island/Central Siberian Yupik - September 1, 2017
    Abstract: We present an initial web-based tool for St. Lawrence Island/Central Siberian Yupik, an endangered language of Alaska and Russia. This work is supported by the local language community on St. Lawrence Island, and includes an orthographic utility to convert from standard Latin orthography into a fully transparent representation, a preliminary spell checker, a Latin-to-Cyrillic transliteration tool, and a preliminary Cyrillic-to-Latin transliteration tool. Also included is a utility to convert from standard Latin orthography into both IPA and Americanist phonetic notation. Our utility is also capable of explicitly marking syllable boundaries and stress in the standard Latin orthography using the conventions of Jacobson (2001), as well as in Cyrillic and in standard IPA notation. These tools are designed to facilitate the digitization of existing Yupik resources, facilitate additional linguistic field work, and most importantly, bolster efforts by the local Yupik communities in the U.S. and in Russia to promote Yupik usage and literacy, especially among Yupik youth.
  • Linguistic Vitality, Endangerment, and Resilience - August 1, 2017
    Abstract: The concept of “resilience” originated in both ecology and psychology, and refers to the propensity of a system or entity to “bounce back” from a disturbance. Recently, the concept has found increasing application within linguistics, particularly the study of endangered languages. In this context, resilience is used to describe one aspect of long-term, cyclical changes in language vitality. Proponents of “resilience linguistics” argue that understanding long-term patterns of language vitality can be of use in fostering resilience in, and therefore maintenance of, endangered languages. This article takes a critical look at these proposals, based on the examination of long-term trends in the Monguor and Saami languages.
  • Choguita Rarámuri (Tarahumara) language description and documentation: a guide to the deposited collection and associated materials - August 1, 2017
    Abstract: Choguita Rarámuri (Tarahumara) is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken in Northern Mexico of great typological, theoretical, and historical significance. This paper presents an overview and background of the Choguita Rarámuri language description and documentation project and provides a guide to the documentary collection emerging from this project. This collection, deposited in the Endangered Languages Archive, is the result of collaboration with community members with the long-term goals of aiding in language preservation efforts and the development of a reference grammar of the language. While the production of linguistic analysis in the form of the reference grammar and other publications motivates a significant amount of the documentary corpus, the collection was also theorized from the perspective of a variety of audiences and provides an example of community-based design of documentary materials. This paper provides details on the development of the project, which allows readers to contextualize the scope and nature of the resulting corpus. This paper also discusses current restrictions on access to the collection, as well as an overview of existing associated materials and work underway that seeks to provide direct links between the deposited collection and products of linguistic analysis.
  • Losing a Vital Voice: Grief and Language Work - August 1, 2017
    Abstract: Working with speakers of endangered languages often involves developing a deep rapport with the eldest members of a community. These relationships present unique challenges that include navigating great losses – not only of the language of study, but, more profoundly, the attendant death of its speakers. This essay is motivated by the recognition that the death of close consultants is inherent in work with endangered languages. It draws on case study examples to examine the emotional components of language work, specifically grief and loss, from both personal and professional perspectives. Our focus is on two key issues. The first is as a methodological issue that arises for those operating under a collaborative model of language work where investment by the community and participatory research by the fieldworker is the norm. The second is as a training issue involving our responsibilities to those we mentor in understanding the reality of close work with speakers, particularly of endangered languages. This reality includes careful consideration of their families and communities. Our hope is that this essay may serve as a foundation upon which a more thorough consideration of methodological issues and preparation through honest and open approaches to training can be constructed.
  • Putting practice into words: The state of data and methods transparency in grammatical descriptions - June 6, 2017
    Abstract: Language documentation and description are closely related practices, often performed as part of the same fieldwork project on an un(der)-studied language. Research trends in recent decades have seen a great volume of publishing in regards to the methods of language documentation, however, it is not clear that linguists' awareness of the importance of robust data-collection methods is translating into transparency about those methods or data citation in resultant publications. We analyze 50 dissertations and 50 grammars from a ten-year span (2003-2012) to assess the current state of the field. Publications are critiqued on the basis of transparency of data collection methods, analysis and storage, as well as citation of primary data. While we found examples of transparent reporting in these areas, much of the surveyed research does not include key information about methodology or data. We acknowledge that descriptive linguists often practice good methodology in data collection, but as a field we need to build a better culture with regard to making this clear in research writing. Thus we conclude with suggested benchmarks for the kind of information we believe is vital for creating a rich and useful research methodology in both long and short format descriptive research writing.
  • New Technologies, Same Ideologies: Learning from Language Revitalization Online - June 1, 2017
    Abstract: Ease of access, production, and distribution have made online technologies popular in language revitalization. By incorporating multimodal resources, audio, video, and games, they attract indigenous communities undergoing language shift in hopes of its reversal. However, by merely expanding language revitalization to the web, many language learning websites often include already existing language ideologies seen in existing resources. Many of the ideologies reported for Native North American languages can be harmful to language maintenance. In particular, such problems as limited social ecology of language use, elder purism, reliance on memorization, and others have been widely reported to be the “stumbling blocks” in language revitalization. Through examining different types of Algonquian websites, this study demonstrates that these language ideologies are not unique to classroom instruction but often are reiterated online. The unique advantage of the online resources, however, is their flexibility and diversity which allow language revitalization workers to implement many different instructional designs. In appealing to different types of learners through using various types of language instruction, some online language learning resources can not only diversify language learning but also re-contextualize the indigenous language. The online space becomes a useful tool for supplying alternative teaching materials, histories, and contexts. Through such representation of the language, this study argues, online language revitalization can engage a wider audience and fulfill the goals of cultural revival. This study recommends broadening the contextual instructions, various procedures, and including more language learners in the creation of the materials.
  • Motivating the documentation of the verbal arts: Arguments from theory and practice - June 1, 2017
    Abstract: For language documentation to be sufficiently extensive to cover a given community’s language practices (cf. Himmelmann 1998), then including verbal arts is essential to ensure the richness of that comprehensive record. The verbal arts span the creative and artistic uses of a given language by speakers, such as storytelling, songs, puns and poetry. In this paper, I demonstrate the significance of verbal arts documentation in three other ways. Drawing from Indigenous language community contexts in the United States, I describe how the verbal arts are relevant to linguistic theory, revitalization and training. First, the influence by verbal arts on phonological theory is attested, affirming that the collection and analysis of verbal arts data plays a significant role in the phonological analysis of a given language and in theories of phonology. Second, the verbal arts generate extremely useful examples in training models for language work, since such examples can be used to cultivate phonological awareness in learners and teachers. Third, the verbal arts provide culturally meaningful materials for language revitalization.
  • The Founding of Language Documentation & Conservation - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: The Founding Editor's reflection on a decade of LD&C.
  • LD&C possibilities for the next decade - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: The Editor's overview of LD&C, what it has achieved and directions it is going in the future.
  • Language Vitality among the Mako Communities of the Ventuari River - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: Mako [ISO 639-3: wpc], a Sáliban language spoken along the Ventuari River in the Venezuelan Amazon, has been variably reported as (critically) endangered and threatened. These reports, however, are based on second-hand information and/or self-reported census data. In this article, I present a vitality assessment of Mako that relies on first-hand fieldwork data from 20 communities in the Middle Ventuari River area. The analysis of the data -- collected through interviews, community censuses, and participant observation between 2012 and 2014 -- shows that the situation is not as dire as previously reported and that the language is very vital in its local context. I also show that the place of Mako in the regional and national contexts put it in a vulnerable position and that steps should be taken to ensure its presence in new domains of use. Methodologically, I show the importance -- and argue in favor -- of including data from long-term participant observation in analyses and reports of linguistic vitality because of the access this methodology provides to tacit knowledge about language use and attitudes. This work thus contributes both to our understanding of language vitality among the Mako communities and to discussions of best practices in language vitality assessments.
  • Earbuds: A Method for Analyzing Nasality in the Field - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: Existing methods for collecting and analyzing nasality data are problematic for linguistic fieldworkers: aerodynamic equipment can be expensive and difficult to transport, and acoustic analyses require large amounts of optimally-recorded data. In this paper, a highly mobile and low-cost method is proposed. By connecting low impedance earbuds into a microphone jack of a recording device and placing one earbud immediately below one nostril while keeping the other earbud by the mouth, it is possible to capture the relative intensity of sound exiting the nasal and oral cavities. The two channels can then be normalized to assess the relative prominence of nasality and orality in a given speech sound. This method can not only be used to establish whether nasality is present in a speech signal, but it can also provide information about the timing and duration of nasal gestures. As such, it is an ideal tool for collecting high-quality nasality data in the field.
  • Some principles for language names - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: Linguists are sometimes confronted with choices concerning language names. For example, one and the same language may be referred to as Persian or Farsi. This short paper discusses some principles that one might use for making decisions when there are variant forms in use, or when one feels that none of the existing names is appropriate. The principles discussed here arose from work on Glottolog, an English-language database of the world’s languages (Glottolog.org), where each language has a single primary English name (though variant forms are of course included), and where the goal is to choose the best variant form as the primary name of the language. Whenever the question arises which variant name form to choose, the Glottolog editors are guided by these principles, so they are formulated in a prescriptive way, but with explanation and justification for each principle. It seems that the general issue is also quite important for language documenters, because the names of non-major languages are often not fully established yet, and naming decisions have to be made.
  • The IATH ELAN Text-Sync Tool: A Simple System for Mobilizing ELAN Transcripts On- or Off-Line - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: In this article we present the IATH ELAN Text-Sync Tool (ETST; see http://community.village.virginia.edu/etst), a series of scripts and workflow for playing ELAN files and associated audiovisual media in a web browser either on- or off-line. ELAN has become an indispensable part of documentary linguists’ toolkit, but it is less than ideal for mobilizing the transcribed media it allows linguists to create when they have reason to display these materials in non-research settings where linguists are not the primary audience. In conjunction with display of a video or audio file, ETST plays tiers of transcript for overlapping speech, along with optional glosses, and distinguishes speakers with participant codes. Using ETST requires no programming knowledge, but with some such knowledge the tool can be readily customized to suit users’ needs. To that extent, ETST is a simple browser-based transcript player that can be used either as is, “out of the box”, or as a basis for further development. We hope that ETST will be a helpful addition to documentary linguists’ repertoire of digital tools, making it easier for them to share materials with all those who have a stake in their research.
  • Toward a linguistically realistic assessment of language vitality: The case of Jejueo - March 1, 2017
    Abstract: The assessment of language endangerment requires accurate estimates of speaker populations, including information about the proficiency of different groups within those populations. Typically, this information is based on self-assessments, a methodology whose reliability is open to question. We outline an approach that seeks to improve the accuracy of self-assessment by exposing participants to a simple linguistic task before they render their judgments. The viability of the approach is evaluated with the help of a case study involving 81 partial speakers of Jejueo, a critically endangered Koreanic language.

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