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Subcontracting Native Speakers in Linguistic Fieldwork: A Case Study of the Ashéninka Perené (Arawak) Research Community from the Peruvian Amazon
Elena I. Mihas, pp. 1–21
In light of a growing need to develop best practices for collaboration between the linguist and community researchers, this study provides orientation points on how to engage native speakers in linguistic fieldwork. Subcontracting native speaker-insiders is a variety of empowering collaborative field research, in which trained collaborators independently make audio and video recordings of fellow speakers in the research community, with subsequent transcription and translation of the collected texts. Using fieldwork in the Peruvian high jungle communities of Ashéninka Perené (Kampan, Arawak) as a case study, this paper examines practicalities of subcontracting such as identifying potential subcontractors, negotiating and signing an agreement, training to use practical orthography and equipment, and evaluation of the end-product.
Participatory Methods for Language Documentation and Conservation: Building Community Awareness and Engagement
Christina Lai Truong and Lilian Garcez, pp. 22-37
This paper describes three participatory methods to engage communities in research, planning, implementation, and evaluation of language programs for their own benefit. These methods facilitate investigation of sociolinguistic phenomena to inform and spur planning for effective language initiatives. In guided discussion sessions, community members build visual representations of collective knowledge about their language and language practices using text, symbols, and pictures. They are then invited to react to the results and discuss changes they would like to see in their situation. In the first activity, participants build a map of language variation, intelligibility, and language attitudes in their community. In the second activity, patterns of bilingualism among demographic subgroups are diagrammed and analyzed by the community. In the third activity, the community creates a diagram of their language use in various domains. Several pilot tests of the methods were conducted with minority language speakers in Malaysia and Indonesia. Using participatory methods is a valuable process that builds community awareness and engagement with language conservation issues. The process of thinking critically about their own language situation is a step from passivity towards engagement that creates an opportunity for the community to participate in, shape, and own collaborative initiatives for their language.
A Linguistic Assessment of the Munji Language in Afghanistan
Daniela Beyer and Simone Beck, pp. 38-103
This paper presents a sociolinguistic assessment of the Munji (ISO: mnj) speech variety based on data collected in the Munjan area of northern Afghanistan. The goal was to determine whether a national language is adequate for primary school education and literature, or whether the Munji people would benefit from language development, including literature development in the vernacular. The survey trip entailed administering questionnaires to village elders,sociolinguistic questionnaires as well as Dari proficiency questionnaires to men and women of various age groups, eliciting word lists, and observing intelligibility of Dari and language use. In this way we aimed to determine the vitality of Munji, the different varieties of Munji, the use of Munji and Dari in the different domains of life, attitudes toward the speaking community’s own speech variety and toward Dari, and to investigate their intelligibility of Dari. In this paper we aim to show that the Munji people would benefit from Munji language development as a basis for both primary school material and adult literacy material in the mother tongue. In the long term, this is likely to raise the education level as well as the Munji people’s ability to acquire Dari literacy.
Documenting Endangered Languages with Linguist’s Assistant
Stephen Beale, pp. 104-134
The Linguist’s Assistant (LA) is a practical computational paradigm for describing languages. LA contains a meaning-based elicitation corpus that is the starting point and organizing principle from which a linguist describes the linguistic surface forms of a language using LA’s visual lexicon and grammatical rule development interface. This paper presents a brief overview of the semantic representation system that we have designed and discusses the meaning-based elicitation methodology. Next it describes the process by which the linguist enters lexical and grammatical information, then it discusses the ancillary functions of LA that allow for an efficient and accurate language description as well as the facilities for producing written documentation of the language. Videos are included to demonstrate the major functionality of LA.
Getting the Story Straight: Language Fieldwork Using a Narrative Problem-Solving Task
Lila San Roque, Alan Rumsey, Lauren Gawne, Stef Spronck, Darja Hoenigman, Alice Carroll, Julia Colleen Miller and Nicholas Evans, pp. 135-174
We describe a structured task for gathering enriched language data for descriptive, comparative, and documentary purposes, focusing on the domain of social cognition. The task involves collaborative narrative problem-solving and retelling by a pair or small group of language speakers, and was developed as an aid to investigating grammatical categories relevant to social cognition. The pictures set up a dramatic story in which participants can feel empathetic involvement with the characters, and trace individual motivations, mental and physical states, and points of view. The data-gathering task allows different cultural groups to imbue the pictures with their own experiences, concerns, and conventions, and stimulates the spontaneous use of previously under-recorded linguistic structures. We argue that stimulus-based elicitation tasks that are designed to stimulate a range of speech types (descriptions, dialogic interactions, narrative) within the single task contribute quantitatively and qualitatively to language documentation, and provide an important means of gathering spontaneous but broadly parallel, and thus comparable, linguistic data.
Linguistic Data Types and the Interface between Language Documentation and Description
Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, pp. 187-207
This paper presents a new definition of documentary linguistics, based on a typology of linguistic data types. It clarifies the distinction between raw, primary, and structural data and argues that documentary linguistics is concerned with raw and primary data and their interrelationships, while descriptive linguistics is concerned with the relations between primary and structural data. The fact that primary data are of major concern in both fields reflects the fact that the two fields are very closely interlinked and difficult to separate in actual practice. The details of their interaction in actual practice, however, are still a matter for further discussion and investigation, as the second main part of the paper attempts to make clear.
Notes from the Field: Chicahuaxtla Triqui Digital Wordlist and Preliminary Observations
by A. Raymond Elliott, Fulgencio Sandoval Cruz and Felipe Santiago Rojas, pp. 208-236
This article presents a 200-item list consisting of words and sample sentences from Chicahuaxtla Triqui, an Otomanguean language spoken in San Andrés Chicahuaxtla in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. The wordlists include broad phonetic transcriptions, English glosses, Spanish cues, individual WAV recordings, and comments. Since the key to understanding Chicahuaxtla Triqui lies in the ability to distinguish tone, the list is divided into two parts: 1) a section consisting of minimal pairs with contrastive phonemic tone and/or lexical items illustrating other interesting phonological characteristics, such as tone, fortis-lenis contrasts, prenasalized velars/pre-voicing, and velar onset nasals; and 2) lexical items that evidence tonal contours but may or may not operate contrastively in the language. To date the files have not been deposited into an institutional archive, however, the present researchers plan to do so once the data are properly categorized. This project involves San Andrés Chicahuaxtla leaders, teachers, community members in addition to researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Texas at Arlington. These digital files represent one of a number of ways to increase access not only for the Triqui community members and leaders who are interested in language conservation efforts, but also for linguists, researchers, and students who wish to learn more about the Otomanguean stock of languages.
C’ek’aedi Hwnax, the Ahtna Regional Linguistic and Ethnographic Archive
by Andrea Berez, Taña Finnesand and Karen Linnell, pp. 237-252
We discuss the development of the C’ek’aedi Hwnax Ahtna Regional Linguistic and Ethnographic Archive, located in the Copper River valley of south central Alaska. C’ek’aedi Hwnax is the first OLAC-compliant, Indigenously-administered digital language archive in North America. Against the backdrop of the history of language archiving at the Alaska Native Language Center in Fairbanks, we present the Ahtna community’s voiced desire for local control over decades’ worth of irreplaceable linguistic and cultural recordings, along with the steps we took to build the archive. These include the aggregation of recordings from various locations, the process by which they were digitized, and the increase of access to their contents. The Ahtna archive follows guidelines for best practices already undertaken by established university-based archives around the world. At the same time, the archive represents a new model of distributed linguistic archiving in Alaska via a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which provides permanent off-site backup of the Ahtna collection on its servers and allows C’ek’aedi Hwnax full administrative control over access to the collection at the university. In this model, the responsibility for administration of language materials traditionally held in a central location is apportioned to different parties according to their needs and resources.
Dominant Language Transfer in Minority Language Documentation Projects: Some Examples from Brunei
by Adrian Clynes, pp. 253-267
Language documentation often takes place in contexts of heavy language contact, where there is a shift in progress from a minority language to another culturally dominant language. For many younger speakers, the language of their parents is increasingly acquired as a second language, and their communication in this second language shows classic transfer effects, where transfer is “[a] general cover term for a number of different kinds of influence from languages other than the target language” on a learner’s acquisition of that target language (Ellis 1994:341). However, transfer can also been seen as a more pervasive phenomenon, “a constraint imposed by previous knowledge on a more general process, that of inferencing” (Schachter 1992:44). Considered in this light, transfer can influence far more than a given learner’s interlanguage. Assumptions, attitudes, and conceptual models associated with a culturally dominant language can all unconsciously influence assumptions made about minority languages. These can, in turn, affect various strategic decisions made in the documentation of such languages, including whether a given variety should be documented, which speakers should be recorded, which text types to collect, what orthography to use, even what constitutes a genuine feature of the lexis, phonology, morphology, and so on. This paper aims primarily to illustrate this phenomenon, and to explore ways of dealing with it. Dominant language influence needs to be taken into account at each stage of the documentation process, minimizing it where it is intrusive, and taking advantage of it where it can be of use.
One Community’s Post-Conflict Response to a Dictionary Project
by Deborah Hill, pp. 273-281
It may seem that dictionaries would be a low priority for communities struggling with recent ethnic conflict, rapid social change, and economic hardship. However, the potential for dictionaries to have a positive effect on a community’s self-esteem has been noted for Melanesian societies. Furthermore, the potential for managing social change may also underpin a dictionary project. This paper describes the initial response to a dictionary project in a Solomon Islands community and how the community decided to combine lexicography with the revitalization of traditional crafts. The community’s decision to link the revitalization of cultural skills to the dictionary project moved the project firmly into the community’s hands and allowed them to conceive of a future that promotes the maintenance of language and culture. While there is no certainty about the success of the community’s plans, the energy and optimism evident in these initial stages of the project support the general assertion that dictionaries can play a role in increasing the self-esteem of a language community. Within the context of a new, national-level languages policy, the dictionary project is also expected to play a concrete role in language and culture maintenance. The factors impacting self-esteem and language maintenance also have implications for other small language communities.
On Being a Linguist and Doing Linguistics: Negotiating Ideology through Performativity
by Tonya Stebbins, pp. 292-317
In this paper I explore and contrast the multiple positions available to me as a linguist, both within the academy and in the communities where I do fieldwork. These domains make quite different demands on me in my professional practice. In my experience, transitioning between these domains can be challenging, since the assumptions about my identity and role are divergent and often conflicting. I use the concept of performativity to identify the different positions I enact and which are attributed to me in each of these roles. I suggest that rather than seeing a binary division between academia and community, it may be useful to conceive of our work with communities as occurring in a third space that is shared by members of the relevant community, but which is distinct from the community per se. Such a distinction provides space for both linguists and communities to negotiate the extent to which ideas, methods, and ideologies from one field are expected to infiltrate another. The advantage of such a model is that it allows everyone involved to recognize and, where appropriate, engage with the frameworks of others. This facilitates a richer understanding of the forces at play in language development work and allows competing priorities a place in the process.
Review of InqScribe
by Murray Garde, pp. 175-180
Review of WeSay, A Tool for Collaborating on Dictionaries with Non-Linguists
by Ross Perlin, pp. 181-186
Review of Wunderkammer Import Package: A Tool for the Display of Multimedia Dictionaries on Mobile Phones
by Clair Hill, pp. 282-291
Handbook of Descriptive Linguistic Fieldwork, by Shobhana L. Chelliah & Willem J. de Reuse
Reviewed by Claire Bowern, pp. 268-272