Vol. 15 (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Language use and attitudes as indicators of subjective vitality: The Iban of Sarawak, Malaysia
Su-Hie Ting, Andyson Tinggang, & Lilly Metom, pp. 190-218

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
Ana Lívia Agostinho & Gabriel Antunes de Araujo, pp. 219-238

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.

#KeepOurLanguagesStrong: Indigenous Language Revitalization on Social Media during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic
Kari A. B. Chew, pp. 239-266

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.

Community Archiving of Ethnic Groups in Thailand
Siripen Ungsitipoonporn, Buachut Watyam, Vera Ferreira, & Mandana Seyfeddinipur, pp. 267-284

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.

Virtual Frisian: A comparison of language use in North and West Frisian virtual communities
Guillem Belmar & Hauke Heyen, pp. 285-315

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
Delphine Bernhard, Anne-Laure Ligozat, Myriam Bras, Fanny Martin, Marianne Vergez-Couret, Pascale Erhart, Jean Sibille, Amalia Todirascu, Philippe Boula de Mareüil, & Dominique Huck, pp. 316-357

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.