This afterword looks back over the articles in the book, using a developmental metaphor to identify the stage that endangerment linguistics seems to have reached. Pure and applied aspects of the subject are identified. It reviews some of the myths associated with endangerment studies, and brings together themes addressed in various chapters, such as rate of loss, the nature of collaboration, and community concerns. Several chapters explore exactly what is involved in such notions as intergenerational transmission, immersion, minority status, contact situations, correctness, and metadata. A comparative perspective is seen to be of particular importance, with the emergence of a more standardized methodology for data gathering and description, and fresh opportunities for hypothesis testing and case studies, especially in a digital world. Terminological issues are also addressed, especially the mind-set switch from endangerment to empowerment.
The centrality of language in human life means we cannot document any language without understanding all the spheres of knowledge it is used to talk about. Equally, undocumented languages contain too much information to be wasted on linguists alone. As the medium through which the whole fabric of traditional knowledge about everything in the world is transmitted, the importance of these languages stretches out in the direction of many fields of enquiry, from ethnoecology to comparative jurisprudence to deep history to the study of musical and verbal art. Linguists, then, have a responsibility not just to their own field but to all areas of scholarship concerned with the almost infinite varieties of human creativity, and we abrogate this responsibility if we do not seek to follow our documentation of the languages we study down all these lanes and by ways of orally transmitted lore. One of the appeals of fieldwork is that we get the opportunity to develop interests in many new subjects, from botany through ethnography to thatch-making. But few linguists reach the point where we are able to really penetrate to the heart of all these fields, and in practice the best way to extend our documentary coverage is through some form of interdisciplinary fieldwork. The advantages of interdisciplinary fieldwork are most obvious in the way it can extend the detailed lexicon of targeted areas — botanical terms with the botanist, rock types with the geologist, terms for spear or personal adornment types with the material culture specialist, and so forth.
There are many paths language revitalization can take, but they are not mutually exclusive. A central aspect of language revitalization is the creation of new speakers. One path is for families to learn and transmit the endangered language at home. Schools are major venues for language learning. Language nests and immersion schools have been especially effective. Adult language education has also become a critical part of language revitalization. Universities and “bootstrap” methods such as the Master-Apprentice Program have been able to bring adults to high proficiency. Linguistic archives have been useful for access to language, especially when there are no speakers left. Modernization of the language is also unavoidable, including new vocabulary and the development of writing systems if necessary. Most importantly, language revitalization should involve increased use of the language, by native speakers and learners alike.
Nala H. Lee and John R. Van Way
The need for accurate measures of language endangerment is now more important than ever, given the global problem of language endangerment. In this chapter, different vitality measures are introduced and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed. In particular, this chapter draws attention to the Language Endangerment Index. Learning from the strengths and weaknesses of previous approaches, LEI was developed for assessing the level of endangerment for any language in the world. It takes into account four separate factors: intergenerational transmission, absolute number of speakers, speaker number trends, and domains of use. LEI combines these four factors to obtain an overall rating, which can be used for quick reference or comparison. The scale also generates a certainty level, based on how many of the four factors were used in the assessment, which allows it to be used and interpreted accurately, even when little is known about a language’s situation.
Anna Margetts and Andrew Margetts
This article gives an account of practical issues with audio and video recordings in a fieldwork setting, based on real-life experiences. In addition to some standard recommendations, it includes points learned through mistakes, happy accidents, and trial and error. Comments about specific equipment will be out of date by the time this volume is published. Nevertheless this article gives specifications for at least some items in the hope that this will help to identify types of equipment that have been found to be worthwhile. This article first addresses some general points about what to record in a field situation, outlines the workflow of data processing, and provides notes on managing equipment. It then discusses audio and video recordings and raises the question of energy supply and useful auxiliary equipment. The appendix provides suggestions for a basic field equipment kit. This article also elaborates upon what to record for linguistic analysis followed by the workflow that would allow some of the data to be fully processed during the fieldtrip.
Barry J. Conn
This article illustrates the requirement of plants and their association with people. Since plants are a very important part of the material and cultural heritage of all communities, those who are interested in studying the culture of a people require an understanding of the plants associated with them. To understand plants and their association with the people, it is important to know the identity of the plant species used by them. Knowing the vernacular name of a plant used by a community assists with communication within that community but fails to provide information to a broader group. Furthermore, the information on how this plant is used by other communities remains inaccessible to most researchers. Therefore, it is important to link local plants to their scientific names so that all the information about these plants is available to everyone. However, the identification of plants is often quite difficult and requires careful examination of the features of the plant and comparison with other previously identified species. Therefore, carefully prepared botanical collections are always required to identify plants with certainty. The study provides a brief introduction to the techniques used for collecting botanical specimens that will enable fieldworkers to provide specimens of plants that are adequate for identification and valuable for scientific study.
Christopher P. Dunn
Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. The implications for natural ecological (terrestrial and marine) and agricultural systems are enormous. The diminishment and extinction of native species and the increase in number and impact of invasive species are well documented. As natural systems are altered, the local communities and indigenous groups that have co-evolved with, and depend on, native plants and animals are challenged to maintain their integrity and livelihoods. Thus, the erosion of biological diversity can lead directly to the erosion of cultural and, thusly, linguistic diversity. Here the ramifications of climate change with respect to cultural and language endangerment are examined, with particular emphasis on island systems, ecological calendars, civil conflict, and migration. Strong mitigation and adaptation strategies will be essential for cultural and language survival.
Gary B. Palmer
Emotion language has been the object of intensive study in recent years, both in cognitive linguistics and in anthropology. Cognitive and anthropological linguists are struggling to parse out the influences of heredity, basic experience, and culture on semantics. This article focuses on the intersection of cultural knowledge with the semantic component of cognitive grammar. It examines research in two broad semantic domains: agency and emotion and spatial orientation. There is no presumption that these categories have folk or emic status in other languages; their status is merely analytic. In actual case studies, one seeks to discover how speakers themselves delineate their semantic domains. One can think of other semantic domains that linguists and anthropologists have studied, from kinship and illness to botany, anatomy, and the earmarkings of reindeer. This article discusses new approaches and findings in each of the selected domains that offer promise for anthropological linguistics. It focuses on studies demonstrating strong interdependencies between grammar and culture, but shows that the findings do not support a strong Whorfian position on the determination of perception by grammar.
Gabriela Pérez Báez, Rachel Vogel, and Eve Okura
Language revitalization aims at reversing language shift. This chapter seeks to expand knowledge about ongoing efforts to sustain the use of languages by means of a study that goes beyond the relatively limited number of often cited case studies that have been reported in the relevant literature, and endeavors to document the diversity of efforts around the world for the purposes of comparative analysis. The authors report on the results of a pilot of the Global Survey of Language Revitalization Efforts carried out by Recovering Voices (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian) in collaboration with the Linguistics Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. This survey is, to their knowledge, the first attempt at analyzing revitalization comparatively across cultural and geographic contexts to shed light on correlations among variables that foster positive outcomes in language revitalization—and on correlations that may represent challenges.
Kenneth L. Rehg
Dictionaries play an essential role in documenting and conserving endangered languages. However, many such languages lack dictionaries, for a variety of reasons. A fundamental one is that relatively few linguists have had any training in lexicography. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to provide a preliminary guide to compiling a dictionary by envisioning that task as the production of a product. The creation of any successful product entails at least five steps—research, preliminary planning, design and construction, distribution, and support. Each of these steps is briefly discussed here, with an emphasis on dictionary design, described in terms of the dictionary’s macrostructure, microstructure, and megastructure. Legal and ethical issues are also briefly considered. The primary goal of this chapter is to urge researchers to undertake the creation of a dictionary, and to provide them with a conceptual framework to do so.