Language Documentation & Conservation, vol. 2, no. 2 (2008)


Locus Equation Analysis as a Tool for Linguistic Fieldwork
Caleb Everett

Locus equations are linear regressions based on F2 formant transitions from vowel onsets to vowel midpoints. The F2 value of the onset of a given vowel can be plotted on the y-axis, with the F2 for the vowel’s midpoint plotted on the x-axis. Locus equations are derived from numerous F2 onset-F2 midpoint plots of this type. Each locus equation is associated with a particular consonant, which precedes the particular vowel tokens plotted according to F2 transition. Locus equations provide data on the patterns of CV coarticulation characterizing particular consonants. Studies in laboratory settings have demonstrated the efficacy of locus equation analysis for exploring such coarticulation patterns. However, locus equation analysis has generally not been exploited as a tool for linguistic fieldwork. This study presents an exception, as the author presents various locus equations based on data from Karitiâna, an endangered Amazonian language. These equations, based on acoustic data gathered in the field, reveal language-specific patterns of coarticulation. The results suggest that, even in remote non-laboratory settings, locus equations can be applied in a straightforward manner in order to provide useful insights into a language’s sound system.

Capturing Chaos: Rendering Handwritten Language Documents
John Henderson

This paper demonstrates how the nature of a source language document, and the broad goals set for the usability of the content, can direct the process of creating digital language documentation from that source. Gerhardt Laves’s handwritten 1931 field notes on Noongar language and culture of southwestern Australia were retranscribed using an XML markup scheme and processed in various ways using XSLT. The central goals were to produce usable resources for community language activities and for linguistic and other scholarly analysis. A specific requirement for a rough facsimile representation, in recognizing that some of the graphic form of the notes was content that should be represented in the markup, contributed significantly to the specification of the markup scheme. Consultation with the Noongar community led to the recognition of Noongar families’ rights in the materials and the recognition of culturally sensitive content, which together led to a requirement for multiple versions with varying content. The general nature of these handwritten notes also raises important issues of reliability and attribution that must be handled in the markup scheme.

Prosodic Description: An Introduction for Fieldworkers
Nikolaus P. Himmelmann and D. Robert Ladd

This article provides an introductory tutorial on prosodic features such as tone and accent for researchers working on little-known languages. It specifically addresses the needs of non-specialists and thus does not presuppose knowledge of the phonetics and phonology of prosodic features. Instead, it intends to introduce the uninitiated reader to a field often shied away from because of its (in part real, but in part also just imagined) complexities. It consists of a concise overview of the basic phonetic phenomena (section 2) and the major categories and problems of their functional and phonological analysis (sections 3 and 4). Section 5 gives practical advice for documenting and analyzing prosodic features in the field.

Fieldwork and Documentation of Speech Genres in Indigenous Communities of Gran Chaco: Theoretical and Methodological Issues
Cristina Messineo

This paper presents some theoretical and methodological reflections on documenting and analyzing texts gathered from indigenous communities, based on my experiences working with communities in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina. The purpose of this essay is to discuss how the selected fieldwork model, the methods of data collection, the degree of access the researcher has to the material, and the type of relationship that develops between the investigator and the consultants all influence the type and quality of the data. In my experience, a collaborative approach that relates the description of linguistic structures to the study of discourse as verbal art greatly enriches the documentation of endangered languages.

Electronic Reference Grammars for Typology: Challenges and Solutions
Sebastian Nordhoff

Electronic publication offers new possibilities for the creation and exploration of grammatical descriptions. This paper lists values influencing the structure of electronic grammatical descriptions. It then investigates challenges and solutions for a grammar authoring software trying to adhere to these values in the domains of data quality, creation of the description, and exploration of the description. The paper closes by discussing possibilities for the standardization of grammatical descriptions on a macroscopic level, complementing the standardization efforts on a more fine-grained level like GOLD or CRG.


Review of Phonology Assistant 3.0.1
Reviewed by Mark Dingemanse

Review of Emdros: The Database Engine for Analyzed or Annotated Text
Reviewed by Kirk E. Lowery


Review of Essentials of Language Documentation
Reviewed by Nicholas Evans

Review of An Introduction to Contact Linguistics
Reviewed by Sue Fox


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