Greetings from the LD&C team
In a recent article, Bird et al. (2013) discuss a workshop held at the University of Goroka in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2012. The workshop was intended to offer a new methodological framework for language documentation and capacity building that streamlines the documentation process and accelerates the global effort to document endangered languages through machine translation and automated glossing technology developed by computer scientists. As a volunteer staff member at the workshop, in this response to Bird et al. I suggest that it did not in the end provide us with a model that should be replicated in the future. I explain how its failure to uphold fundamental commitments from a documentary linguistic and humanistic perspective can help inform future workshops and large-scale documentary efforts in PNG. Instead of experimenting with technological shortcuts that aim to reduce the role of linguists in language documentation and that construct participants as sources of data, we should implement training workshops geared toward the interests and skills of local participants who are interested in documenting their languages, and focus on building meaningful partnerships with academic institutions in PNG.
Documentary Linguistics and Computational Linguistics: A response to Brooks
Steven Bird, David Chiang, Friedel Frowein, Florian Hanke & Ashish Vaswani, pp. 10–11
Collaborative Documentation and Revitalization of Cherokee Tone
Dylan Herrick, Marcellino Berardo, Durbin Feeling, Tracy Hirata-Edds & Lizette Peter, pp. 12–31
Cherokee, the sole member of the southern branch of Iroquoian languages, is a severely endangered language. Unlike other members of the Iroquoian family, Cherokee has lexical tone. Community members are concerned about the potential loss of their language, and both speakers and teachers comment on the difficulty that language learners have with tone. This paper provides a brief overview of Cherokee tone and describes the techniques, activities, and results from a collaborative project aimed at building greater linguistic capacity within the Cherokee community. Team members from Cherokee Nation, the University of Kansas, and the University of Oklahoma led a series of workshops designed to train speakers, teachers, and advanced language learners to recognize, describe, and teach tone and how to use this information to document Cherokee. Following a participatory approach to endangered language revitalization and training native speakers and second language users in techniques of linguistic documentation adds to the knowledge-base of the community and allows for the documentation process to proceed from a Cherokee perspective rather than a purely academic/linguistic one. This capacity-building aspect of the project could serve as a model for future collaborations between linguists, teachers, and speakers in other communities with endangered languages.
May Sasabihin ang Kabataan ‘The Youth Have Something to Say’: Youth perspectives on language shift and linguistic identity
Emerson Lopez Odango, pp. 32–58
This position paper brings youth perspectives to the forefront of academic discourse about language shift and linguistic identity, framed in the larger intersecting conversations about language endangerment, maintenance and revitalization, the breakdown and rebuilding of intergenerational transmission, and the changing late modern landscapes in which youth linguistic identities emerge. At the core of this paper is the question, “What can be done about language shift?” My contribution to the answers is a call for further integration of youth perspectives into these academic discourses, most especially (but not exclusively) perspectives written by young scholars who are speaker-members of communities in which language shift is occurring. Such integration allows us to gain nuanced understandings of youth perceptions about language shift in their communities, the effects on their linguistic identities, and their motivations for reclaiming (or letting go of) their ancestral/heritage languages. This is a work in which I overtly take professional and personal stances, drawing upon my own experiences as a member of a Filipino diaspora in which language shift is currently taking place.
‘Lone Wolves’ and Collaboration: A Reply to Crippen & Robinson (2013)
Claire Bowern & Natasha Warner, pp. 59–85
In this reply to Crippen & Robinson’s (2013) contribution to Language Documentation & Conservation, we discuss recent perspectives on ‘collaborative’ linguistics and the many roles that linguists play in language communities. We question Crippen & Robinson’s characterization of the state of the field and their conclusions regarding the utility of collaborative fieldwork. We argue that their characterization of collaborative fieldwork is unrealistic and their complaints are based on a caricature of what linguists actually do when they work together with communities. We also question their emphasis on the ‘outsider’ linguist going into a community, given the increasing number of indigenous scholars working on their own languages and partnering with ‘outsider’ academics. We outline ways in which collaborative work does not compromise theoretical scholarship. Both collaborative and so-called ‘lone wolf’ approaches bring advantages and disadvantages to the linguist, but lone wolf linguistics can have considerable disadvantages to communities who are already excluded from research. Documentary linguists, as representatives of their profession, should make use of the most effective techniques they can, given that in many cases, that linguist’s work may well be the only lasting record of the language.
Collaboration: A Reply to Bowern & Warner’s Reply
Laura Robinson & James Crippen, pp. 86–88
Tools for Analyzing Verbal Art in the Field
Myfany Turpin & Lana Henderson, pp. 89–109
Song is a universal human phenomenon that can shed much light on the nature of language. Despite this, field linguists are not always equipped with the knowledge and skills to analyze song texts and draw out their significances to other areas of language. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a language community to ask linguists working in the field to record and document their songs. Barwick (2012) identifies a number of reasons why linguists should work on songs and identifies iTunes as a local repository for recordings of songs. This paper expands on these reasons and describes how iTunes software can be used for comparing, retrieving and managing recordings of songs. This not only assists analysis of song structure and text, but is also a useful means of providing the community with recordings, even in the absence of a local repository. The paper draws on our use of iTunes during fieldwork on central Australian Aboriginal songs. Our aim is to share the methodology and workflow we use and to encourage linguists to work on this universal, yet often neglected, aspect of language that is often highly valued within the language community.
State-of-the-Art in the Development of the Lokono Language
Konrad Rybka, pp. 110–133
Lokono is a critically endangered Northern Arawakan language spoken in the peri-coastal areas of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana). Today, in every Lokono village there remains only a small number of elderly native speakers. However, in spite of the ongoing language loss, across the three Guianas as well as in the Netherlands, where a number of expatriate Lokono live, language awareness is increasing and measures are being taken to develop the language. This paper employs the UNESCO’s language vitality framework to assess the Lokono situation. I give particular attention to the state-of-the-art in language development activities, including language documentation. The aim of this paper is to provide the readers with an updated picture of the Lokono sociolinguistic context in order to facilitate future work between the Lokono and the academic community.
Dictionaries of endangered languages represent especially important products of language documentation, in part because they are usually the most familiar and useful genre of linguistic representation to endangered language community members. This familiarity, however, can become problematic when it is accompanied by language ideologies that equate dictionaries with word lists (‘words for things’), prescriptive linguistics, and researchers’ neoliberal assumptions regarding the circulation of knowledge. Recent and ongoing research in the Village of Tewa (N. Arizona, Kiowa-Tanoan language family) designed to produce a practical dictionary in support of the community’s language renewal efforts provides some examples of the need to contextualize the project within the community and to understand the pervasive role of language ideologies when working collaboratively. This research project aims to promote and fortify lexical documentation so that the practical dictionary is an adequate guide for future community members, while still conforming to cultural protocols about lexical representation and circulation, both within and outside the language community.
The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork, by Nicholas Thieberger (ed.)
Reviewed by Andrew Pawley, pp. 134–139
The Marshallese-English Online Dictionary, by Takaji Abo, Bryron W. Bender, Alfred Capelle & Tony DeBrum
Reviewed by J. Albert Bickford, pp. 158–163